Accusing KCBS-TV of violating a 1988 Hispanic hiring agreement, National Hispanic Media Coalition president Esther Renteria has vowed to file a Federal Communications Commission complaint in 30 days if the station “doesn’t clean up its act.”
The Hispanic group has joined a growing list of minority organizations — including the Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — in criticizing the station.
Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, saying there is a “systematic effort” to deny equal treatment to minority groups, gays and women in the broadcasting industry, recently called on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to investigate the hiring and treatment of minorities at Los Angeles’ seven primary TV stations.
Although the minority groups are making the most noise, station sources say the problems are reflective of extremely low morale among most employees — particularly those working under news director Bob Jordan — at KCBS following a management change last year.
Still, others argue the station has been hurting, and sometough measures are necessary to revive it, even if it means alienating or firing many long-time employees.
Renteria said KCBS has fallen below the minimum hiring requirements for Hispanics during Bill Applegate’s tenure as general manager. Applegate, who could not be reached for comment, has previously denied that minorities were demoted or harassed.
Renteria charged that Applegate had ignored the terms of a hiring agreement the National Hispanic Media Coalition struck with the station in 1988. The pact, which then-general manager Bob Hyland hammered out after months of public protests against the station, was strengthened in subsequent years and filed with the FCC.
It required the station to notify numerous agencies in Los Angeles of on-air and management job openings. Additionally, KCBS had to have a short list of qualified Hispanic candidates for every position offered.
Renteria said it became obvious during a meeting with Applegate last Wednesday that he was unaware of the conditions.
If KCBS fails to comply with the demands, Renteria said her group will file an FCC complaint that would lead to a compliance hearing.
Like most stations in California, KCBS’ broadcast license was renewed by the FCC in December. The only stations in the market that haven’t had their licenses renewed yet are KNBC-TV and KCAL-TV, both of which have outstanding coalition complaints pending against them at the commission.
According to the coalition, Applegate replaced only three of the six Hispanics who left the station in his first eight months on the job. His most visible Hispanic hire was former KNBC-TV anchor Linda Alvarez for the 6 a.m. and noon newscasts.
Of the 19 employees hired during that time, 10 were white males, five white females, three Latin females and one Latin male.
Since press reports surfaced last month about alleged problems at the station , however, Renteria said Applegate has “rushed forward” to either promote or hire several more Hispanics. KCBS also appears to be looking to fill its editorial director and public information manager posts with Hispanics.
The station Thursday filed its yearly personnel report with the FCC. Even with the hires over the past 10 days, Renteria said the station is still below the minimum 18% of the workforce required for Hispanics.
Applegate also met recently with Alatorre, who criticized the station for its hiring practices and news coverage.