CHICAGO — Amid takeover rumors that have caused a 12-point swing in the broadcast company's stock price in two days, CBS vowed again Wednesday to remain "an independent enterprise" and offered its shareholders at the annual meeting assurances that CBS News functions without interference from the company's management.
CBS Chairman Thomas H. Wyman lost little time taking a swipe at Fairness in Media, a conservative group that has declared its hopes to take over the company based on its objections to the putative liberal bias of CBS News.
As representatives of the group listened from the front row of the audience at CBS' television studio here, Wyman remarked: "We are quite clear that the integrity of CBS News and the independence of CBS News are inextricably linked. Those who seek to gain control of CBS in order to gain control of CBS News threaten that independence and integrity."
Agreement on Remarks
A legal agreement reached earlier between CBS and the group prevented its members from making remarks at the meeting.
Wyman also introduced a promotional tape featuring assurances from CBS News stalwarts Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid that corporate management had never interfered with the unit's news judgment.
Little of the speculation that Atlanta cable-TV entrepreneur Ted Turner is about to make a takeover bid for CBS sifted into its 2 1/2-hour shareholders meeting. Instead, the proceedings were dominated by several well-known corporate gadflies who battled each other as well as Wyman for the floor. A resolution submitted by one of them, Evelyn Y. Davis of Washington, calling for cumulative voting in the election of board members, was voted down, with 6.97% of shares in support.
Wyman himself ruled out of order three resolutions submitted from the floor by Reed Irvine, the head of Accuracy in Media, a media watchdog group. Among other things, Irvine complained that two docudramas aired this year on the CBS TV network about Robert F. Kennedy and about the Atlanta child murders had factual inaccuracies. Wyman said the network had tightened its standards covering such quasi-fictional productions.
Shareholders rejected Irvine's nomination of three members of his group to the CBS board in favor of management's slate of 13 directors.
Wyman was asked by a shareholder to comment on Turner's "morals," but he demurred, saying: "I have expressed something less than total enthusiasm for the thought of his managing this enterprise."
Although prevented from making remarks during the shareholders meeting, spokesmen for Fairness in Media held a news conference before the session. They said they had asked CBS for equal time to refute a CBS News ad campaign promoting the "fairness," "objectivity" and "integrity" of the "CBS Evening News" and its anchorman, Dan Rather.