Federal Communications Commission Chairman Charles Ferris has called for a new FCC effort to confront the minority hiring practices of the nation's three leading commercial television networks.
Ferris, in a speech last week, said although local sttaions have progressed in hiringgwomen and members of minority groups the data concerning the networks are distressing.
In fact he said the failure of ABC, CBS and NBC to add blacks Hispanics and women to their managements has contributed to stereotyped portrayals of the three groups in network programming.
"I believe it may be time to confront directly the employment practices of the three commercial networks," Ferris told a meeting of the Black Citizens for Fair Media in New York City.
"If we believe in the underlying premise behind equal employment opportunities in the broadcast industry -- that the input of women and minorities into programming decisions will affect what Americans watch -- then it is time to require performance at the place where those program decisions really happen -- the network headquarters."
Ferris also praised the networks particularly for their public affairs efforts to bring attention to the nation's civil rights problems.
But he said, "Stereotyped portrayals of blacks, Hispanics and women as well as other groups persist in network entertainment programming."
Citing 1978 figures, Ferris said 15.9 percent of network headquarters employes are minorities and 31.3 percent are women. Only 7.4 percent of management and other top level positions are filled by minority group members.
On the other hand, minorities constitute 22.4 percent of the work force at 15 network-owned television stations -- 50 percent higher than comparable figures at the networks themselves.
FCC affirmative action guidelines have applied to these network-owned stations and not to the networks themselves. But major program decisions are made at these networks' headquarters, Ferris noted.
In a recent report about the relationship between the networks and the FCC, researchers concluded that the commission has greater jurisdiction over network operations than it has exercised previously. And the FCC is studying a petition submitted by a group of civil rights activists that would expand its equal opportunity program to network hiring practices.