Thursday, April 8, 2021

CBS Shake-Up: Two TV Station Executives Exit

CBS-TV has ousted Peter Dunn, who served as president of the TV Stations group since 2009, and David Friend, senior vice president of news for more than a decade, are no longer part of CBS, the company’s chief executive, George Cheeks, announced Wednesday in an email to staff.

The L-A Times reports the move comes two months after an investigation by the Los Angeles Times alleged that the pair cultivated an environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists. The Times’ series shined a harsh light on an often overlooked corner of the company that lacks the prestige of the CBS television network but remains a vital source of local news for millions of Americans.

Dunn, who was based in New York, maintained a tight grip on operations of the 28 CBS-owned TV stations, including KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 in Los Angeles, according to interviews and court testimony. Dunn in 2010 promoted Friend, a veteran news executive who oversaw news operations at WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York, to head of CBS’ local newsrooms across the country.

Dozens of current and former staff members in Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia and New York have complained of a hostile work environment. Journalists in New York alleged that managers often made news coverage decisions that neglected communities of color. The flagship WCBS station in New York — one of the nation’s most diverse cities — lacked a full-time Black male reporter until March 2020, the same month that Cheeks, who is biracial, took the reins at CBS.

Allegations that Dunn made racist comments about Ukee Washington, a beloved Black anchor at the CBS-owned television station in Philadelphia, struck a chord. Former CBS station managers alleged that Dunn called Washington “just a jive guy” and that Dunn ridiculed the dance moves of the popular anchor, who is a distant cousin of actor Denzel Washington.

The series also raised questions about a $55-million purchase of a TV station on New York’s Long Island — the only station acquisition during Dunn’s 11-year tenure overseeing CBS’ station group. The 2011 deal came with privileges for Dunn and other high-level CBS executives at an ultra-exclusive golf club in the Hamptons, where they hobnobbed with billionaires.

In January, CBS called the Long Island station purchase a “strategic acquisition” that created value by giving the broadcaster two stations in New York, the nation’s largest media market, and that Dunn’s membership was disclosed in advance to senior management and legal counsel.

The Philadelphia Business-Journal reports CBS confirmed the fate of Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice president of news for the network’s owned-and-operated stations. The two have been on administrative leave since late January, after the Los Angeles Times reported that former station executives said the two created a hostile working environment at CBS3 (KYW-TV).

The allegations levied by former CBS3 President and General Manager Brien Kennedy and former News Director Margaret Cronan include that Dunn referred to CBS3 news anchor Ukee Washington, who is Black, as “just a jive guy.” He also allegedly asked if the station’s choice for morning anchor was “too gay for Philadelphia” and stated that he “hated” the face of former anchor Rahel Solomon, a Black journalist now working at CNBC.

They were accused of fostering a corporate culture in which female managers were bullied and Black journalists were denied opportunities. CBS placed them on leave while New York law firm Proskauer Rose conducted an investigation.

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