PUSH Asks $11 Million in Donations from Boycotted CBS-Owned Station
CHICAGO (AP) _ A six-month Operation PUSH boycott of a CBS-owned station, sparked by the demotion of a black anchorman, has been extended to CBS stations nationwide, a spokesman for the civil rights organization said Thursday.
Negotiations were continuing with local station WBBM-TV over Operation PUSH’s proposal to call off its boycott in exchange for demands contained in an eight-page ″covenant,″ said Walter Perkins, PUSH spokesman.
That proposal, delivered to WBBM in January, asks that the CBS-owned station agree, among other things, to adhere to strict minority hiring and promotion quotas and donate more than $11 million to black charities.
It is similar to seven agreements the Chicago-based PUSH already has reached with such business giants as Coca Cola Co.
Perkins said the boycott was extended Feb. 27 to CBS stations natiowide.
He said negotiators for PUSH resumed meetings Friday in Chicago with Neil Derrough, president of CBS-owned stations, and Johnathan Rodgers, recently hired as vice president and general manager at WBBM.
Perkins declined to say whether the negotiations resulted in a modification of the original covenant.
However, Dr. Hycel Taylor, national president of PUSH, was quoted in Thursday’s editions of the Chicago Sun-Times as saying: ″Although there will not be a massive alteration in the proposal, we are now at a different point in the negotiations, and the proposal would have to be rewritten based upon those negotiations.″
Rodgers, the only black general manager of a network-owned station, said in a statement released Thursday by WBBM: ″This station will do what is right and in the best interest of the entire community.″
Derrough was ″in meetings all day″ and unavailable for comment, said Felicia Weiner, a secretary in his New York office.
Derrough was quoted in an industry publication earlier this week as saying that negotiating on quotas was ″not possible. We just don’t get into quotas.″
But, he added, CBS was ″sensitive to the need for fair employment.″
CBS has a companywide affirmative-action program, officials said, and minorities make up 22.8 percent of the staff at WBBM. By comparison, the Nielsen audience ratings service estimates that the station’s designated service area is 19 percent nonwhite.
The PUSH demands contained in the original ″covenant″ ask, among other things, that WBBM-TV:
- Establish a 40 percent employment quota for black and Hispanic employees.
- Conduct at least 35 percent of its business with black banks; 25 percent of its legal work with black and Hispanic lawyers; and 35 percent of its outside accounting work with minority accountants.
- Donate $10 million to the United Negro College Fund and ″contribute a minimum of $1 million to black organizations designated by PUSH.″
The PUSH boycott of WBBM-TV began with a shakeup at the station last September that resulted in black anchorman Harry Porterfield being demoted to make room for the return of former WBBM anchorman Bill Kurtis.
Kurtis, who left Chicago for New York to be co-host of the ″CBS Morning News,″ returned to WBBM, in part, to help stem the station’s ratings slide. Porterfield subsequently joined the local ABC station, which has supplanted WBBM as the most successful newscast.
WBBM officials have said it is impossible to determine whether a ratings decline is directly attributable to the boycott.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of PUSH, said last week that the boycott of WBBM was the first effort in a campaign aimed at increasing minority representation in the news media.
Operation PUSH has reached seven agreements similar to the one it is proposing for WBBM. Among them is a 1981 covenant with Coca-Cola Co. in which the company promised to increase black involvement in its business operations, and a 1983 agreement with Burger King to have black firms procure at least 15 percent of its goods.
In each case, PUSH claimed that black support of the product should be reflected by the economic support of the black community.