CBS Inc. gave its shareholder list to Fairness in Media today after the group agreed to restrict the use of the names.
James Cain, co-founder of FIM, said the group will use the list to contact CBS stockholders "in support of our campaign to end bias and bring fairness to CBS news reporting." FIM said it might use the list to notify CBS shareholders of a special stockholder meeting to be held sometime after the regularly scheduled April 17 CBS annual meeting.
Both CBS and FIM announced the shareholder agreement in separate statements.
FIM, a conservative group supported by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), has said it will try to gain financial control of CBS to end what it calls the network's liberal bias. CBS has vowed to fight the takeover attempt.
The request for the shareholder list was made about four weeks ago by Hoover Adams, an owner of 11 shares of CBS stock and a supporter of FIM. CBS officials said today they refused to give FIM the list until they received assurances that the list would not be used for political fund-raising activities.
FIM agreed to return all copies of the list to CBS after the company's annual meeting next month, and CBS agreed to make the list available to FIM on five days notice in the future, FIM said.
FIM also agreed that the list will be used only for a proxy solicitation, a tender offer, a special meeting or other shareholder action to effect a change in CBS management or policy, CBS said. CBS also said FIM agreed the list will not be made available to Jefferson Marketing Inc., a North Carolina-based political advertising and consulting firm, or other organizations connected to Helms.
The group also agreed that the list will be shown only to FIM members Thomas Ellis, R. E. Carter Wrenn and James Cain, and to a professional proxy solicitation firm, CBS said.
Wrenn is executive director of the National Congressional Club, a political action committee that supports conservative candidates for public office. "This is a great victory for FIM," said FIM's Cain. "Obtaining the list of CBS stockholders is a key to our campaign to bring fairness and objectivity to CBS news."
FIM said it would not comment on its specific plans for the April 17 CBS annual meeting.
The Washington Post reported last week that broadcasting magnate Ted Turner told CBS lawyers that he has had discussions with Helms andFIM about launching a joint bid for control of CBS. But Turner subsequently told The Washington Post that he does not have the money to make a bid, and CBS Chairman Thomas H. Wyman said there was no "financial substance" to reports that Turner, who controls Cable News Network, might try to take over the network.
In a related matter, a New York judge ruled that CBS is entitled to question FIM officials in connection with a CBS suit against the group. CBS officials said their attorneys would question the founders of FIM early next month.
The CBS suit charges FIM with violations of federal securities laws, improper political activities by tax-exempt organizations and illegal corporate contributions, all in connection with the campaign to take over CBS.
The public battle between CBS and FIM 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 mailed one million letters, signed by Helms, to individuals throughout the country asking them to purchase at least 20 shares of CBS stock each, as part of the group's effort to influence network news coverage at CBS.