NAACP Chief Buys Stock in 4 TV Networks


In an effort to ratchet up its campaign against the four major networks, the head of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People has purchased 100 shares of stock each in the parent companies of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox to gain access to shareholder meetings and address the lack of diversity in programs on the broadcasters' new fall schedules.

The stock was purchased Tuesday on behalf of the NAACP by President and CEO Kweisi Mfume at a total cost of $22,000, according to a spokeswoman for the civil rights organization.

The stock acquisition comes a little more than a week after Mfume first attacked the four major networks for nearly excluding minorities in their new fall prime-time lineups. Of the 26 new comedies and dramas premiering this fall, none currently features a minority in a leading role. Minority characters in supporting roles are sparse, with few blacks in those roles, and Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and other ethnic groups nonexistent.

Fox executives said Wednesday that they will add more minorities to their upcoming series, and other networks have indicated they will also place more minorities on new shows in reaction to the criticism.

Still, those moves have not defused the NAACP's intent to press for more changes.

Mfume purchased the shares himself because the NAACP is a nonprofit organization and such a purchase would have required approval of the board, which is not scheduled to meet until the fall.

The idea for the purchase was initiated during a strategy session to figure out a line of attack against the networks. The group wanted to have a comprehensive plan that would be different than the usual legal and civil actions, according to the NAACP spokeswoman.

In addition to purchasing the stock, Mfume has said he would take a variety of actions--the most severe being litigation--against the networks. He called the virtual absence of minorities a violation of the 1934 Federal Communications Act, which provides that the airwaves belong to the public. He also said he would call for congressional and Federal Communications Commission hearings on network ownership, licensing and programming.

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