50,000 signatures reached
Tell TV executives: Stop shutting out progressives and people of color
To: Ben Sherwood, President of ABC News; David Rhodes, President of CBS News; Deborah Turness, President of NBC News; and Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide
Your viewers deserve and demand to hear a diverse set of opinions from a diverse calendar of guests -- not just those of white conservatives. It's time for producers of your Sunday morning talk shows to schedule guests and hire hosts of races and political backgrounds that match the general population.
Why is this important?
Americans of all races and parties are politically engaged and working to lead our nation into a better future, but you wouldn't know that by watching Sunday talk shows on the major TV networks. A recent report by progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America found that Sunday morning political talk shows on major TV networks are mostly white, male and conservative. According to the report a majority of the Sunday morning national political news shows hosted white male guests at a significantly higher rate than their 31 percent proportion of the population. Viewers of NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday show saw white male guests over 62% of the time throughout 2013.
While it's no surprise that an extreme right wing network like Fox News would exclude guests who refuse to parrot Republican talking points and marginalize people of color, the willingness of other networks to follow suit is a disturbing trend.
Limiting the diversity of guests hosted on Sunday programs and other talk shows to so thoroughly overrepresent one part of the population severely limits the diversity of views presented and does a serious disservice to viewers and to our country as a whole. As one of the few forums for serious, in-depth discussions with decision makers about the issues of the day, these programs are hugely influential. Comments made on these programs are often discussed for weeks in interviews with other political leaders. Denying people of color and of differing opinions the opportunity to join these discussions can lead to their views being left out of discussions on the House and Senate floors.
Even worse than the fact that people of color, progressives are denied the opportunity to share their views, the lack of diversity on these programs sends a subtle suggestion that their opinions simply don't matter and won't be taken seriously.
For too long, producers and media executives have denied that there is a problem with this lack of diversity, or simply passed the buck. In 2010, Ian Cameron, former executive producer of ABC's This Week said "our bookings are dictated by the news and newsmakers," and that because senior members of committees dealing with major issues in Congress at that time, "were white and mostly men." But arguing that this justifies shutting out other voices fails to acknowledge the influence these programs have on which officials become prominent enough to be selected for leadership positions, which candidates are deemed viable enough to be elected, and on what type of person is willing to run for office or even speak up in the first place. These shows don't merely reflect the reality of who holds power -- they create that reality.
Fortunately, some hosts are working to make their programs more diverse. Last year, MSNBC host Chris Hayes touted his previous weekend show's use of a quota system to ensure that the views of white men weren't heavily overrepresented in his lineup of guests. Melissa Harris-Perry managed to limit the percentage of white male guests on her show to under 30%, allowing other voices room to be heard. There's no reason other networks can't follow their example, but we need to build public pressure on executives at these networks to make that happen.
With fierce competition between networks for viewers, the executives of major networks need any advantage they can find to attract a larger audience. Sign my petition and show executives at ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN that by scheduling a more diverse slate of guests and hiring hosts that reflect the general population, their networks can attract a larger audience of politically engaged viewers like you.
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