ABC on Friday announced new measures to strengthen diversity in front of and behind the cameras at the network, two days after NBC unveiled similar pledges to head off the NAACP's threatened boycott against the broadcast networks. The announcement had been rumored for days. CBS and Fox are expected to announce their own separate agreements with the NAACP in the next seven to 10 days.
Friday was ABC President Patricia Fili-Krushel's turn to stand with NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume at a New York news conference, announcing the network's redoubled commitment to diversity.
Included among the initiatives in the seven-page "statement of understanding" are promises to foster minority representation at all levels--from executives to performers, writers and producers--through grants, existing internship programs and by more aggressively identifying whether minority candidates have been considered in the job interview process.
In addition, the network said it will tie bonuses for management personnel to "the fulfillment of diversity responsibilities by each division head at ABC."
Absent from the ABC agreement, however, was a more specific and immediate measure proposed Wednesday by NBC, which said it will fund a position on each of its second-year shows and make it clear to producers that the intent is that it be filled by a minority writer.
"Every network was at a different level before this issue came up last summer," said an ABC source. "For us, we're not starting from ground zero."
The ABC pact is unlikely to mollify the nonblack members of the minority coalition that pushed for greater diversity on television. Mfume, the de facto head of the coalition--which included Latinos, Asian Pacific Americans and Native Americans--has come under fire in recent days for excluding them in the process.
The NAACP did not return phone calls by press time. But at the news conference, Mfume said: "We think the agreement makes it clear that increased opportunities for people of color is a priority at ABC."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.