NAACP President Bruce Gordon took his time before commenting on the new "Survivor" series, but the statement he issued Tuesday has stirred up some controversy of its own. Aside from calling the show "a bad idea," Gordon was unimpressed. He said the new series, which will divide contestants into four groups along racial/ethnic lines, is not nearly as disconcerting as the broader issues facing people of color in the entertainment industry, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"There are countless race abuses that exist in the entertainment community every day," Gordon told the L.A. Times. "For the media to give airtime to the format of a TV show when it is silent on the absence of African Americans on Sunday morning news shows is shameful."
Critics of the new show argue that Gordon's position on the CBS board, one he did not disclose in the NAACP's original statement on "Survivor," may have shaped his opinion. According to National Urban League Policy Institute data, however, Gordon's got a valid point.
In its August 2005 diversity study of five Sunday-morning political talk shows, which analyzed all programs broadcast from the five major networks—ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX and NBC—from January 2004 through June 2005, the Institute found:
· Fewer than 8 percent of program guests were black.
· Of the more than 2,100 guest appearances, only 176 guests were black, and 122 of these 176 appearances were by three guests: Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Juan Williams.
· U.S. senators and representatives were featured more than 500 times on these broadcasts, but black representatives accounted for a mere nine times. (See also: Who Is Worst for Diversity? The United States Senate)
CBS's "Face the Nation" aired fewer interviews with black guests than any other network. Only 12 percent of broadcasts featured these interviewees, compared with "CNN Late Edition" at 38 percent, the highest of all the networks.
"Survivor: Cook Islands" will debut at 8 p.m. Thursday. Host Jeff Probst said the idea came out of preseason discussions in which the show's staff decided they needed to make the show more diverse. (See also: Why 'Survivor' Plays the Race Card)
This season, producers will pit blacks, Latinos, Asians and whites against each other to stimulate viewing through "ethnic pride." Long-time advertisers such as General Motors and Campbell Soup have pulled their support, but they denied that the race-based programming had anything to do with their respective decisions. (See also: Survivor Exodus: GM, Coke, Big Advertisers Flee, Deny Racial Concerns)
This is not CBS's first attempt to diversify its programming, albeit the most controversial. Its "The Amazing Race," which won an Emmy Award for best reality program, takes a more in-depth approach to diversity, featuring participants who differ by race, gender, disability, orientation and marital status, among other issues. Last year, 11 teams of two raced for $1 million in a global competition that took them to Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Senegal, Germany, Hungary, Corsica, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, China and Hawaii. The seventh season of "The Amazing Race" will begin Sunday, Sept. 18.
© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged