PUSH Says Demands to Halt Boycott of CBS-Owned Station Negotiable
CHICAGO (AP) _ The Rev. Jesse Jackson, calling for ″justice in the media,″ says minority hiring practices should be examined at television stations nationwide - not just at CBS, which is the focus of a protest by Operation PUSH.
Operation PUSH, a civil rights group founded by Jackson, says its proposal to call off a 6-month-old boycott of a local CBS-owned station in exchange for an agreement on specific minority hiring goals and charitable donations is a ″moral convenant,″ but negotiable.
″The principles sought in the covenant remain, but we understand the specifics will have to be changed according to the realities of the situation,″ the Rev. Henry Hardy, chief negotiator for the Chicago-based organization, said Thursday.
PUSH spokesman Walter Perkins said the organization on Feb. 27 had extended its boycott of WBBM-TV to CBS stations nationwide.
In a telephone interview from Washington D.C., Jackson said, ″It is time now for us to seek justice in the media. There will be further negotiations for justice in the media. Right now, the focus is at CBS, but it will be extended to other stations in the Chicago area and across the country.″
Jackson did not specify if he was calling for additional boycotts, saying, ″Boycotts and the timetable will be determined by the success of negotiations″ with WBBM.
The WBBM boycott was sparked by the demotion last September of Harry Porterfield, a black anchorman, to make room for former WBBM anchorman Bill Kurtis, who returned to the station after a stint as co-host of the nationally televised ″CBS Morning News.″
In January, PUSH called on the station to agree, among other things, to strict minority hiring and promoton quotas and donate more than $11 million to black charities.
The proposal, which Hardy called a ″moral covenant,″ is similar to agreements PUSH has reached with such business giants as Coca Cola Co.
Hardy said PUSH negotiators met for the first time Friday in Chicago with Neil Derrough, president of CBS-owned stations, and Johnathan Rodgers, recently hired as vice president and general manager at WBBM.
Hardy 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, quoted in an industry publication earlier this week as saying negotiation on quotas was ″not possible,″ was in meetings all day Thursday and unavailable for comment, said Felicia Weiner, a secretary in his New York office.
″We just don’t get into quotas,″ he was quoted as saying. But, he added, CBS was ″sensitive to the need for fair employment.″
CBS has an affirmative-action program, and minorities make up 22.8 percent of the staff at WBBM, officials said. By comparison, the Nielsen audience ratings service estimates that the station’s designated service area is 19 percent nonwhite.