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Jesse Jackson Coalition Targets Music Industry

January 16, 1998|CHUCK PHILIPS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A coalition of record industry officials joined civil rights leader Jesse Jackson on Thursday in New York to discuss racism and sexism in the entertainment business.

The panel, which included representatives from PolyGram, Walt Disney Co. and the chairwoman of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, examined the economic status of minorities in the music business, where black and female artists generate huge profits but rarely participate in the running of corporations.

Sources said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is preparing to launch an investigation into hiring and promotion practices at one major record corporation in the months ahead. A representative for the EEOC declined to comment Wednesday.

Thursday's gathering at the World Trade Center was part of a conference staged by Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project to scrutinize the hiring and promotion practices of minorities in corporate America. Last year, Jackson's organization purchased small portions of stock from nearly 100 major corporations, including PolyGram, Time Warner Inc., Seagram Co., Sony Corp. and EMI, to gain access to shareholders' meetings.

The entertainment panel was attended by Hilary Rosen, head of the music industry trade group RIAA, Mercury Group Chairman Danny Goldberg, Motown Records Chairman Clarence Avant and former super-agent and Disney President Michael Ovitz. President Clinton also spoke at the conference.

Jackson decided to target racism and sexism in the music industry after a furor erupted last year at PolyGram over a remark made by a top executive during a court deposition. PolyGram demoted the executive after he testified that if record companies were prevented from hiring people with criminal records, no African Americans would be working in the music industry.

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