CBS Chief Joe Ianniello Looks To Make “Inclusiveness A Top Priority”, Says He And Viacom’s Bob Bakish “Not Easing Up On the Pedal”

John Paul Filo/CBS

CBS hasn’t always had the best track record when it comes to diversity and inclusion but according to acting CEO Joe Ianniello, he is looking to change all that.

In a memo Ianniello sent out on Tuesday, the CBS chief gave some motivating words when it came to diversity and inclusion related to news, casting, TV stations and in human resources. He said that he has been actively listening to employees and has met with many. Ianniello said that in order to make it the best workplace for the employees, he looks to make the “ongoing process of making inclusiveness a top priority across CBS.”

With the impending merger with Viacom, Ianniello said that he and Viacom boss Bob Bakish are “aligned in this effort” and that they “are not easing up on the pedal.” I want you to know that in these months as we move toward the merger, we are not easing up on the pedal.”

The journey of diversity, inclusion and representation has been a rocky one for the network. There have been ups and downs and each year at TCA, it is a top-of-the-list item discussed during the executive sessions. In 2014, Nina Tassler was pressed about diversity in a year when Maggie Q was their only person of color in a lead role in the drama Stalker. Things began to look up in 2015, when Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i was promoted to SVP Entertainment Diversity & Communications at CBS Entertainment in an effort to recruit, nurture and hire diverse talent to work in front of and behind the camera.

The following year, Laverne Cox made history as the first trans woman of color to appear in a lead role on CBS’ Doubt — but it seemed like that was of the few instances of diversity on the network. During TCA in 2016, Glenn Gellar said “We’re definitely less diverse this year than last, but in our ensemble diversity, we’re more diverse than last year. I think that’s our commitment to diversity, it’s ongoing.”

A similar song was sung in 2017 when Gellar opted out of an executive session but when Deadline pressed him again on the topic of diversity, he said: “We are making some really nice strides.”

Over the past two years,, CBS Entertainment president Kahl and SEVP Programming Thom Sherman have touted CBS’ progress in the arena, which recently earned the network African American Film Critics Association’ Inclusion Award for its diverse programming and talent with shows like The Neighborhood, Bob Loves Abishola, All Rise, God Friended Me, Evil and Magnum. While CBS’ advancements in diversity and inclusivity on the scripted side are being recognized, CBS brass recently came under fire over diversity issues on reality programs like Big Brother and Survivor.

CBS’ has several initiatives in the area of inclusivity and diversity. With Smith-Anoa’i leading the charge, CBS has become the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge to commit to auditioning actors with disabilities. In addition, they host their annual CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase and actor Wilmer Valderrama signed a two-year first-look deal with CBS TV Studios for scripted and unscripted projects, with a strong emphasis on diversity.

Read Ianniello’s memo below.

Dear Colleagues,

When I began in this role last September, I made a personal commitment to actively listen to employees. I have met with many of you, and I am always gratified when I hear how much you love our Company and want to help make it the best place to work. A key component of this, of course, is the ongoing process of making inclusiveness a top priority across CBS.

As you all know, we will soon be joining forces with Viacom, another company that places great importance on diversity and inclusion, and understands the value it brings to business and culture. I have spoken with Bob Bakish, and we are aligned in this effort. I want you to know that in these months as we move toward the merger, we are not easing up on the pedal.

Recently, I met with a number of employees in New York, and I did the same last week in LA. The exchanges were deep, often personal, and I was enlightened by how some members of underrepresented groups described their experiences. Coupled with my earlier conversations, they signaled that our commitment to diversity and inclusion needs to be made crystal clear.

Today, as I did in my note to you about the merger, I am reiterating CBS’ lasting principles of fairness, collaboration and respect that govern all of us. My leadership team is fully on board, and I will take the lead in holding everyone accountable, so that inclusiveness is understood as a business imperative and a cornerstone of our culture.

What We’re Doing
In my conversations, diversity and inclusion topics seem to fall into four categories: recruiting, career development, transparency, and accountability. We are already increasing headcount and resources in Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion, so we’ll have the people and programs to fully bring our commitment to life, which ultimately benefits all employees. Let me update you on a few more specifics that we are doing in each of these four categories:

We are strengthening the partnership among recruiting, hiring and diversity and inclusion throughout the organization, from our pipeline to senior levels. Just this week we welcomed Danya Bacchus to CBS News, and earlier this summer award-winning journalists Maria Elena Salinas and Allison Keyes also became part of the CBS family. Last month, Claudia Lyon joined us as Executive Vice President of Talent and Casting, and this month Brandin Stewart was named President and General Manager of the CBS Television Stations’ Philadelphia properties, to name just a few.

We certainly want to accomplish more in this area and will work more closely with organizations representing women and all diverse groups. We have had long association with several of these organizations and are now looking to expand our partnership with several of them, including National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Speaking of NABJ, we want to congratulate CBS 2 Chicago reporter Dorothy Tucker, who was this month elected president of the organization. In addition, we are:

    • Establishing new protocols to ensure recruiters and hiring managers are in sync on bringing in and selecting from a diverse slate of candidates
    • Building an inclusion-centered curriculum for hiring managers

Career Development
We are committed to creating a structure where all employees have the opportunity to do their best work and thrive. We are now:

    • Launching a robust leadership training program and developing a comprehensive and consistent company-wide performance management system
    • Reviewing succession planning to ensure diversity goals are reflected in our slate of future leaders
    • Creating and delivering customized unconscious bias training for leaders –

including my leadership team – to help us lead more effectively

One of the things we heard was that employees want access to all job postings throughout the Company. You should know that they can be found here. We are committed to full transparency when it comes to making you aware of opportunities throughout CBS. As such, we are currently:

    • Working on making the internal career site more robust and user-friendly
    • Educating managers throughout our Company so that we champion internal mobility and employees are encouraged to apply for roles across CBS

Recognizing that a diverse and inclusive workplace is good for our people and our business, and that leaders need to set that tone, we are:

    • Holding leaders responsible for improved diversity and inclusion outcomes at all levels, and ensuring a diverse slate of candidates, particularly for senior-level positions
    • Ensuring leaders are engaging in inclusion advancement, such as participating in ERGs and executive sponsorship
    • Evaluating leaders’ performance in these areas and tying it to their compensation

As we make inclusion the core of our culture and progress tangibly in these four areas, I’m confident we will become a better company, attract more top employees and drive innovation. And it’s just the beginning. We will continue to collaborate on ideas, accelerate on execution, and keep the inclusion conversation going. I firmly believe that by learning and sharing on this front, together we can bring about meaningful change.

Thank you for your continued dedication to our Company and colleagues.


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