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  NAACP Considers TV Network Boycott

By Frazier Moore
AP Television Writer
Thursday, Nov. 4, 1999; 6:39 a.m. EST

NEW YORK –– The head of the NAACP, complaining of a "dearth of blacks" at all levels of network television, threatened to start a viewer boycott on New Year's Day.

Pledging "to begin the new century with old-fashioned activism," Kweisi Mfume said Wednesday that one network – ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox – may be singled out by the civil rights organization for a nationwide boycott to go through the February ratings sweeps, a period when audience numbers are used to set advertising rates.

This would hit a network at one of its most competitive and ratings-crucial periods.

"Nothing short of a real and measurable effort by the networks will prevent us from going forward," he said at a news conference in Manhattan.

Mfume condemned "the dearth of blacks and other minorities both in front of the camera and behind the scenes," including writers, directors and executives.

For the boycott, if there is one, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would target the network it judged "the worst at doing what they ought to be doing," Mfume said.

On Monday, he said his organization would present the four networks with "verifiable goals and timetables" for enhancing equal opportunity and promoting diversity.

Then, on Nov. 29, a public hearing on segregation in the TV industry is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles.

"We want to document why this pattern of discriminatory treatment continues to go virtually unabated," he said.

Mfume seized the issue at the NAACP's annual meeting in July by focusing on the paucity of black actors on the networks' slate of new fall series. The networks set about announcing new characters to be played by black and other minority actors.

Then a study released in September by TN Media found that, of the six broadcast networks, only NBC and Fox had a lower percentage of blacks as regular characters in prime-time comedies and dramas than the general population, where blacks represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Complaints about on-camera talent "was our opening salvo," Mfume said. "Our issue is much deeper than that."

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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