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His Humor Helps Tisch as Volleys Fly at CBS Meeting

May 14, 1987|PAUL RICHTER | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The interrogators wanted to find out CBS' position on apartheid, the size of its legal bills and charitable expenses, its position on reporting the Kremlin's "disinformation" and its employee complaint policy.

"Yes, we have a policy," said CBS Chief Executive Laurence A. Tisch, who has been criticized in the press by employees and others for the company's deep staff cutbacks. "We have a direct line to the New York Times for all employee complaints."

The jest was one of several ventured by Tisch on Wednesday as he led his first annual meeting as chief executive through the two-hour cross-examination of gadflies and other shareholders. At a time when his budget-cutting and layoffs have brought serious image problems, he seemed happy enough to show a strong sense of humor.

When a brief shouting match broke out between two shareholders, he counseled one: "Don't get upset. You're going to hear a lot of wild statements today."

To a gadfly, as she spun a particularly dark conspiracy theory: "Please! There's a limit to what this meeting can handle as far as nonsense."

The meeting at New York's Museum of Modern Art also marked the first appearance at an annual meeting in four years by founder and Chairman William S. Paley. Paley, who is now involved in final consultations on the CBS fall programming lineup, took the occasion to denounce a bill pending in Congress that would write into law the so-called fairness doctrine.

Tisch also said that while CBS is not now considering purchasing additional local television stations, the company might purchase three additional stations in large markets under FCC rules. Those rules provide that no broadcaster can reach more than 25% of the American audience.

Tisch said the current high prices sought for network affiliate stations in such markets mean that buying a station now would "add nothing to profitability."

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