It was a story first discussed in a front-page report penned by Meg James in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times.
Now, the entire broadcast TV community is digesting the news that the President of CBS Television Stations and the stations’ SVP of News have been suspended while parent ViacomCBS investigates an increasing number of allegations against them for gender and racial misconduct.
According to the Times, ViacomCBS placed Peter Dunn, who took the helm of the CBS TV stations group in November 2009, and news department leader David Friend “on administrative leave, pending the results of a third-party investigation into issues that include those raised in a recent Los Angeles Times report. CBS is committed to a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken where necessary.”
The Times report discussed in detail how Dunn, and Friend, allegedly bullied female managers and blocked efforts to hire and retain African American journalists.
In particular, James, in her reporting, focused on KYW-3 and WPSG-TV in Philadelphia. Dunn ran the stations from 2002-2004, before a five-year run as the head of WCBS-2 in New York. At KYW-3, 45% of the station’s on-air reporters and anchors are Black, indigenous or other people of color.
The immediate response to her article, which followed a separate report questioning the $55 million purchase of WLNY-55 in Nassau-Suffolk and how Dunn received a membership at an exclusive golf club owned by the station’s seller as part of the transaction, was noteworthy. National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) representatives reportedly met with members of the ViacomCBS C-Suite that James identifies as CBS Entertainment CEO George Cheeks and ViacomCBS EVP Marva Smalls, who leads all D&I initiatives at the company.
According to the Times, NABJ leaders demanded that Dunn be dismissed, along with Friend. Friend has been in his role as SVP/News since June 2010 and continues to serve as WCBS’s News Director — a role he’s held since 2006.
Why is Friend being singled out?
The NABJ takes issue with the hiring practices at WCBS-2, which “only recently” hired a full-time Black male reporter after five years without one. The NABJ also takes WCBS-2 to task for having one full-time Black female reporter and one Black news producer in New York, a market where more racial diversity in the newsroom would reflect the total viewership.
With Dunn and Friend each on administrative leave, CBS COO Bryon Rubin will take Dunn’s duties on an interim basis.
CBS also addressed Dunn’s membership at the Sebonack golf club, on Long Island, by saying it belonged to the company but was placed in Dunn’s name. CBS added that Dunn’s presence at the golf club was used to entertain both clients and business partners.
But, the Times spoke with both current and ex-CBS executives who question why alleged behavior by Dunn and Friend wasn’t addressed in 2018, when a widespread investigation into alleged improper sexual behavior by former CEO Les Moonves led to his departure.
Dunn did not comment on the matter when reached by the Los Angeles Times.
His most recent communication with RBR+TVBR came in June 2020, via e-mail. Dunn sent a note of gratitude for being selected by RBR+TVBR readers as one of Broadcast Television’s Best Leaders for 2020, ranking No. 13.
“It’s a great group of people and I’m truly honored to be included,” Dunn said. “We are proud of the team effort that goes into making our stations and local digital platforms the best they can be. In addition to the recognition you have given us, WBBM-2 in Chicago became the only commercial broadcast station in the country to win a Peabody Award for a year-long look at botched police raids in Chicago. And, our stations won a total of 11 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards — our highest win total since 2009.”
Dunn’s selection by the readers of RBR+TVBR followed his November 2019 honor at the Giants of Broadcasting & Electronic Arts Awards. That award recognizes women and men who’ve had a profound and lasting effect on the broadcast TV industry.
UGLY COMMENTS ON UKEE WASHINGTON
The Times‘ Meg James communicated with Margaret Cronan and Brien Kennedy, who once worked at KYW-3. They each said Dunn had verbally berated anchor Ukee Washington, calling him “just a jive guy” while criticizing his dancing.
Washington is considered the dean of KYW’s newsroom and has been there for roughly 35 years. Cronan and Kennedy also claim Dunn declined to approve a contract extension for another Black anchor, Rahel Solomon, a morning anchor who had been with KYW-3 for roughly two years. Speaking to James, Kennedy said Dunn raised “bizarre objections” to Solomon, including saying, “I hate her face.”
Solomon left CBS in 2019 for CNBC.
In response to the Times report, SAG-AFTRA is requesting a meeting with CBS labor relations as well as station management at KYW-3 to address these most recent revelations.
“We were stunned to see the comments attributed to CBS’s national management team in internal emails and other testimony related to employees of KYW-TV, including members of SAG-AFTRA,” the labor union based in Los Angeles said in a statement.