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Media Lag on Hiring African-Americans

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U.S. news and entertainment media may put African-Americans on camera but they lag in hiring and promoting minorities in critical behind-the-scenes jobs, the NAACP civil rights group reported on Tuesday.

Despite some progress in the last year in hiring by some television networks, notably CBS and Fox, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said there was scant progress for blacks and other racial minorities in decision-making media positions.

"Although there appear to be small gains in on-air roles, there is practically no representation of people of color in the top echelon of production, which is the nucleus of the industry," Mfume said at a news conference to release the NAACP's report on the film and television industry.

He specifically criticized the movie business for failing to employ minority workers except in "token" jobs.

"The industry, and particularly its Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have virtually held themselves exempt over the last 50 years from charges of discrimination and bias," Mfume said.

"Instead, what has been offered has been no more than token gestures of opportunity to small numbers of racially diverse actors, writers and directors instead of real employment opportunities that are noteworthy when measured against the past."

The academy did not immediately return a call for comment on Mfume's remarks.

Mfume said his group would continue discussions with media companies to encourage more racial diversity, but he noted the multibillion-dollar buying power of minority consumers and said his organization might organize "economic sanctions," but only if other options are exhausted.

He said the major broadcast networks had made progress, and while cable television operations were "remarkable, almost frightening" on the issue of racial diversity, the NAACP would wait a year or so before considering sanctions against them.

Alex Wallau, president of the ABC television network, said the network aimed for true across-the-board diversity, adding, "While we have made significant strides in certain areas, we fully recognize that we still have more work to do."

Mfume said other ways to change the climate in the U.S. media include regulatory oversight by the Federal Communications Commission, new legislation and legal challenges through the courts.

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