The public battle between CBS Inc. and Fairness in Media officially began Jan. 10 when FIM filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating that it would encourage conservatives to purchase CBS stock. FIM also said it would request a meeting with CBS officials to try to change the network's "liberal bias."
FIM is a conservative, Raleigh, N.C.-based group. It has the support of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who mailed one million letters to individuals throughout the country asking them to purchase at least 20 shares of CBS stock each. FIM said its strategy was to organize a large group of individual stockholders to influence network news coverage at CBS.
CBS said on Jan. 11 it would resist any attempt by FIM to influence its coverage. CBS said it was an independent organization dedicated to reporting the news accurately and fairly.
The SEC filing said FIM was formed on Nov. 13, 1984, by three North Carolina lawyers, R. E. Carter Wrenn, Thomas F. Ellis and James Palmer Cain. Wrenn is executive director of the National Congressional Club, a political action committee that supports conservative candidates for public office.
On Feb. 4, Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.) said in a statement filed with the SEC that he was joining the FIM campaign. He told United Press International he was joining because "It is the best chance conservatives have ever had to end the liberal bias in media."
The following day, in a speech at Duke University, CBS Chairman Thomas H. Wyman said that network takeover threats often are an attempt to intimidate and manipulate the press.
On Feb. 7, Hoover Adams said in a filing with the SEC that he owns 11 shares of CBS stock and has agreed to aid FIM by requesting a shareholder list from CBS.
On Feb. 8, FIM said in a new SEC filing that it was considering a proxy campaign to elect directors to CBS' board. FIM also said it has begun conducting discussions with third parties about transactions to seek control of CBS. The documents did not identify the third parties.
On Feb. 14, CBS filed suit against FIM in federal court in New York, accusing the group of filing false and misleading proxy soliciations. It asked a federal judge to prevent FIM from obtaining a list of its stockholders unless the group promised not to use the list for "improper purposes."
The CBS lawsuit said: "Through public statements, speeches, press releases and filings with the (SEC), FIM and its associates are attempting to manipulate the market in CBS stock . . . through statements intended to create the false impression that FIM's efforts will result in a tender offer or other conventional takeover of CBS."
On Jan. 10, CBS stock closed at 72 1/2. It closed Friday at 79 5/8.