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TV Stations Have Muted Response to Investigation

March 18, 1994|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Management at the seven major local television stations had a muted response Thursday to reports of the launch of an investigation by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the hiring and treatment of minorities and women at the stations' newsrooms.

While officials at a few stations said that they had already made efforts to diversify their news operations with women and minorities, executives at other stations either could not be reached for comment or said they had not been officially notified of the investigation.

Meanwhile, minority and female staffers at some of the stations welcomed the federal investigation. "It's about time," said one staffer. "I think the stations just don't understand the community makeup of L.A., and the mistreatment of minorities at the stations has gone on for too long."

Philip Montez, western regional director of the commission, said Wednesday that he would conduct the investigation because of a complaint registered by Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, who accused the seven major commercial stations of conducting a "systematic effort" to discriminate against minorities, women and gays.

Alatorre's complaint was prompted by accounts of employees at KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KNBC-TV Channel 4 of racist comments, bias against minorities and preferential treatment of white male reporters.

Montez said that in addition to KCBS and KNBC, the Civil Rights Commission's investigation will cover KTLA-TV Channel 5, KABC-TV Channel 7, KCAL-TV Channel 9, KTTV-TV Channel 11 and KCOP-TV Channel 13.

Jeff Wald, news director at KCOP, said of the inquiry, "All I can say is that I'm proud of all the hard work we've done to diversify our news operation. I don't know what the truth is at those other stations, but there seems to be a lot of gossip."

Spokespersons at KNBC and Fox-owned KTTV said that they are committed to a "diverse work force" in their newsrooms.

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