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CBS Chief Joe Ianniello Touts Reforms in Diversity and Inclusion Memo

With his company poised to merge once more with fellow media conglom Viacom, CEO Joe Ianniello on Tuesday addressed CBS’ diversity and inclusion efforts.

In a company-wide memo, Ianniello touted recent hires in the news, casting, and television-stations divisions, as well growth in the company’s human-resources and diversity-and-inclusion departments. The chief executive also promised reforms to the recruiting and hiring processes, and wrote that he and Viacom head Bob Bakish — who is set to become CEO of the combined ViacomCBS once the merger is completed, with Ianniello remaining in a senior post overseeing most of the CBS operations — are working in concert on inclusion efforts.

“As you all know, we will soon be joining forces with Viacom, another company that places great importance on diversity and inclusion, and understands the value it brings to business and culture,” Ianniello wrote. “I have spoken with Bob Bakish, and we are aligned in this effort. I want you to know that in these months as we move toward the merger, we are not easing up on the pedal.”

Long criticized for lagging behind competitors in terms of onscreen representation of minorities and people of color — an area in which the company’s flagship broadcast network has shown progress, outperforming other broadcasters by several measures in recent seasons — CBS has also of late seen its internal record for diversity and inclusion come under fire. In April, Variety published a lengthy letter by Whitney Davis, an African-American woman veteran of the company’s news and entertainment divisions, titled “CBS Has a White Problem,” in which she described numerous racist and racially charged incidents she experienced in her decade-and-a-half at the company and claimed that she had been denied opportunities given to white colleagues.

Ianniello’s memo Tuesday followed a meeting held with in New York last month and another in L.A. last week, both in which he spoke with staff about a range of issues related to divesity and inclusion. In the memo, he promised that CBS would soon be “Establishing new protocols to ensure recruiters and hiring managers are in sync on bringing in and selecting from a diverse slate of candidates” and “Building an inclusion-centered curriculum for hiring managers.”

Though details were not provided, Ianniello also said that CBS would be launching a new leadership-training program, and that the company is currently reviewing its succession plans “to ensure diversity goals are reflected in our slate of future leaders.”

Read the full memo from Ianniello below:

Dear Colleagues,

When I began in this role last September, I made a personal commitment to actively listen to employees. I have met with many of you, and I am always gratified when I hear how much you love our Company and want to help make it the best place to work. A key component of this, of course, is the ongoing process of making inclusiveness a top priority across CBS.

As you all know, we will soon be joining forces with Viacom, another company that places great importance on diversity and inclusion, and understands the value it brings to business and culture. I have spoken with Bob Bakish, and we are aligned in this effort. I want you to know that in these months as we move toward the merger, we are not easing up on the pedal.

Recently, I met with a number of employees in New York, and I did the same last week in LA. The exchanges were deep, often personal, and I was enlightened by how some members of underrepresented groups described their experiences. Coupled with my earlier conversations, they signaled that our commitment to diversity and inclusion needs to be made crystal clear.

Today, as I did in my note to you about the merger, I am reiterating CBS’ lasting principles of fairness, collaboration and respect that govern all of us. My leadership team is fully on board, and I will take the lead in holding everyone accountable, so that inclusiveness is understood as a business imperative and a cornerstone of our culture.

What We’re Doing

In my conversations, diversity and inclusion topics seem to fall into four categories: recruiting, career development, transparency, and accountability. We are already increasing headcount and resources in Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion, so we’ll have the people and programs to fully bring our commitment to life, which ultimately benefits all employees. Let me update you on a few more specifics that we are doing in each of these four categories:


We are strengthening the partnership among recruiting, hiring and diversity and inclusion throughout the organization, from our pipeline to senior levels. Just this week we welcomed Danya Bacchus to CBS News, and earlier this summer award-winning journalists Maria Elena Salinas and Allison Keyes also became part of the CBS family. Last month, Claudia Lyon joined us as Executive Vice President of Talent and Casting, and this month Brandin Stewart was named President and General Manager of the CBS Television Stations’ Philadelphia properties, to name just a few.

We certainly want to accomplish more in this area and will work more closely with organizations representing women and all diverse groups. We have had long association with several of these organizations and are now looking to expand our partnership with several of them, including National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Speaking of NABJ, we want to congratulate CBS 2 Chicago reporter Dorothy Tucker, who was this month elected president of the organization. In addition, we are:

– Establishing new protocols to ensure recruiters and hiring managers are in sync on bringing in and selecting from a diverse slate of candidates

– Building an inclusion-centered curriculum for hiring managers

Career Development

We are committed to creating a structure where all employees have the opportunity to do their best work and thrive. We are now:

– Launching a robust leadership training program and developing a comprehensive and consistent company-wide performance management system

– Reviewing succession planning to ensure diversity goals are reflected in our slate of future leaders

– Creating and delivering customized unconscious bias training for leaders –

including my leadership team – to help us lead more effectively


One of the things we heard was that employees want access to all job postings throughout the Company. You should know that they can be found here. We are committed to full transparency when it comes to making you aware of opportunities throughout CBS. As such, we are currently:

– Working on making the internal career site more robust and user-friendly

– Educating managers throughout our Company so that we champion internal mobility and employees are encouraged to apply for roles across CBS


Recognizing that a diverse and inclusive workplace is good for our people and our business, and that leaders need to set that tone, we are:

– Holding leaders responsible for improved diversity and inclusion outcomes at all levels, and ensuring a diverse slate of candidates, particularly for senior-level positions

– Ensuring leaders are engaging in inclusion advancement, such as participating in ERGs and executive sponsorship

– Evaluating leaders’ performance in these areas and tying it to their compensation

As we make inclusion the core of our culture and progress tangibly in these four areas, I’m confident we will become a better company, attract more top employees and drive innovation. And it’s just the beginning. We will continue to collaborate on ideas, accelerate on execution, and keep the inclusion conversation going. I firmly believe that by learning and sharing on this front, together we can bring about meaningful change.

Thank you for your continued dedication to our Company and colleagues.


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