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Minority groups target WB, UPN

The minority coalition that pushed the Big Four networks into groundbreaking diversity agreements is focusing on UPN and The WB, as well as on filling new diversity posts at ABC, CBS and FOX. Leaders from Latino, African-American and Asian-American organizations say that, over the next few months, they will focus on getting the netlets to sign pacts similar to those of the Big Four.

Alex Nogales, president of Los Angeles-based National Hispanic Media Coalition, says they might have to take a different tack with Viacom' s UPN and Time Warner' s The WB. "These are diversified companies that have a lot of networks, cable and broadcast, so we are likely going to look at them as a whole and not just at UPN and The WB," Nogales says. "It is our expectation that we will be able to meet with the chairs at both corporations. They know that having a diversified workforce creates diversified products, and that in the long-term, it' s just good business." Spokesmen for The WB, UPN and their parent companies say they have not been contacted by any of the minority organizations.

Karen Narasaki, of the Washington-based National Asian-Pacific American Legal Consortium, says her organization is looking closely at The WB and UPN. "I think both of these networks are slightly different cases, and I think UPN has been a little better than some of the other networks," she says. "The WB has obviously gone after African-American viewers, but not much else."

Coalition members say they are still waiting on three of the Big Four to assign positions of at least vice-president level to oversee the diversity initiatives. NBC early on appointed WNBC-TV executive Paula Madison as vice president, diversity. CBS executives say a vice president will likely be named within the next several weeks.

Upping the ante on the other networks, FOX executives say they are going to make the post a senior vice president and site the magnitude of the position and the size of Fox' s studio and network. FOX has hired East Coast executive search firm Berkhemer/Clayton to fill the post.

Minority leaders are concerned that ABC is not appointing a person at the vice-president level to oversee diversity. ABC is the only network that already had an executive overseeing diversity initiatives, a director of diversity, who has been in place for five years. That person is currently Cheeneah Armstrong, who has been in the post two years.