Hiring report draws NAACP criticism

Small gains occur, but little in TV exec ranks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NAACP, reporting scant progress by TV networks in putting minorities in front of and behind the cameras, renewed threats of a broadcast boycott Wednesday.

There also is a growing belief among minorities in Hollywood that it’s time “to stop begging the barons of the industry for jobs” and develop minority-owned businesses, the civil rights organization said in a report released Wednesday.

After looking at the results of agreements negotiated by the NAACP last year to improve diversity at ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, the group found small gains did occur in hiring actors for primetime series.

Small executive presence

But there was little change in minority representation in the executive ranks — those who have the ultimate authority to decide what is produced and aired.

“The snail’s pace reaction by some of the networks” 18 months after the agreements were first reached has been discouraging, the NAACP report said. Lack of headway was most evident in news, public affairs and sports departments during the 2000-’01 season. In entertainment programming, there remained few writers, producers or casting directors of color.

Corporate boards at the networks or their parent companies remained virtually all white, the report said. CBS, which had been the only network with a minority board member, was joined by Fox Entertainment when it added a black businessman.

The NAACP said it hoped that its assessment of the coming 2001-’02 season “will not force us to visit other options” — including a boycott against a major network and its top advertisers.

“However, if history is any gauge of progress after 52 years of television, it is clear that in all likelihood we will need to do just that,” the report said.

It’s been two years since the NAACP first threatened such action.

Increasing representation

Other possible moves include using federal rules and the courts to mandate opportunities for minorities and asking the government to consider limits on network ownership of programming.

In the report, ABC was criticized for what the NAACP called a lack of network commitment to diversity efforts.

Although ABC Television president Alex Wallau has moved toward an improved approach, the NAACP called “untenable” the network’s lack of progress since initial August 1999 talks on the issue.

According to numbers supplied by the Alphabet net for the report, 33.6% of new hires at the network in 2000 were minorities, including a manager of primetime programs.

NBC showed “little to no progress” in hiring of minorities on and off camera, with an 11% drop in the number of black actors in its primetime series and an 18% decline in the number of Asian-American actors as of March, the NAACP said.

The numbers reflected midseason cancellation of shows and subsequent losses of ethnic actors and producers, the report said.

NBC exceeded its goal of more business with minority-owned firms.

ABC and NBC did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment.

Fox increase

Based on network figures, Fox was found to have boosted the number of minority actors in primetime series to 41% in the 2000-01 season, up from 24% the preceding season.

CBS shows had a substantial increase in black actors compared with the last season (29% to 17%), while there were small gains in the number of Hispanic and Asian-American actors.

Fox and CBS also showed increases in the number of minority writers.

On Monday, the Screen Actors Guild reported that a record number of minority actors found work in film and TV last year as employment for performers overall rose. White actors still dominate the industry, however, playing 76.1% of all roles.

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