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NAACP chief is optimistic after talks

Bruce Gordon says his meeting with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox showed a commitment to diversity.

September 27, 2006|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

After meeting for the first time last week with top network executives, NAACP President Bruce Gordon said he now feels cautiously optimistic about what he feels is a lack of cultural diversity in prime time.

"I felt good that they took the meetings seriously," Gordon said in a telephone interview Monday about his talks with the entertainment presidents and creative chiefs of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

Vic Bulluck, the head of the Hollywood branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, accompanied Gordon in the talks.

They were held more than three months after Gordon first expressed his unhappiness with the absence of any black stars in new comedies on the four major networks. He had said that this fall marks the first time in "recent memory" in which there is not a comedy on ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox with an African American lead and that the major networks had failed to honor their commitment to diversity

Gordon said in the interview that his concerns revolve around what he saw as a lack of minorities in the producing and writing ranks of prime-time television, as well as minorities as "show runners" -- producers who oversee the day-to-day operations of a series.

"The discussions were candid, and we were precise in the areas that need attention," he said. "We were encouraged by their openness. One meeting doesn't represent progress, but it's a first step. And we left with some belief that the principals were committed to accomplishing our goals."

Gordon succeeds Kweisi Mfume as head of the civil rights group. Mfume first lashed out at the networks in 1999 when he pointed out that none of the 26 new comedies and pilots that season featured a minority lead.

That criticism from Mfume and other advocacy groups eventually led to the four networks forming memorandums of understanding, in which they committed to instituting measures to increase diversity in front of and behind the camera. Gordon said the networks agreed to update those memos.

Executives from the four networks could not be reached for comment.

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