Oct 09, 2020

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish describes how the company is tackling social issues at the NAMIC conference.

“8 minutes 46 seconds really jolted all of us,” said ViacomCBS CEO and President Bob Bakish during the 34th annual National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) conference on Thursday. “It created an inescapable cultural reckoning that's led us all to confront systemic racism and bias.”

Bakish, who serves as a conference co-chair of NAMIC, discussed how ViacomCBS is reexamining what needs to be done to make diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice “a reality for everyone.” To do so, he detailed the various initiatives across the company, including creating job opportunities for underrepresented groups and content that reflects our diverse world.

Starting At The Top

For ViacomCBS, workplace diversity is a top priority and is a focus for all employees—starting with Bakish and his senior leadership team.

“It is clear that change needs to happen faster so that, across our industry, our content and workforce—especially with creator and leadership roles—better reflect the diversity of the world around us,” he said. “From an organizational standpoint, we’re focused on a culture of accountability.”

ViacomCBS ties senior leadership compensation to improving the diversity of their teams. The company’s executive team and the Board of Directors meet quarterly to review data of new hires, promotions, and terminations to focus on how the company can help employees thrive.

ViacomCBS also has several long-running Employee Resource Groups in its offices around the world, which help the company build networks for recruitment and allow senior leadership to recognize opportunities for internal advancement. Recently, ViacomCBS also formed the Black Leadership Council, a Black executive advocacy group created to ensure that Black employees are not impeded by biases and receive the attention and support of leadership within the organization.

Work In Progress

There’s always more to be done, Bakish explained as he detailed the initiatives that are underway across the company.

“Our goal is to be the best creators and storytellers possible,” said Bakish. “That extends to brands and content, which together share a rich history confronting bias and stigma of all kinds. That history is reflected in long-standing initiatives, both in front of and behind the camera.”

Earlier this year, BET announced Content For Change, an initiative that has since expanded across the company. Content For Change uses the massive reach of ViacomCBS’ brands and networks to create, distribute, and market content that has a positive impact on social justice issues.

On the CBS side, new targets have been mandated for diversity in writers’ rooms, and CBS announced a multi-year partnership with NAACP to create and develop diverse storytelling. The CBS News’ team has a Race & Culture Unit, which examines segments through an inclusive lens before they go on-air.

The commitment goes beyond the United States; ViacomCBS Networks International requires that all commissioned projects and productions are made by a diverse team.

Some of ViacomCBS’ ongoing programs over the years also include the ViewFinder Emerging Directors Program, Nickelodeon Writing and Artist Programs, CBS Showcase, CBS ON TOUR and CBS Writers Mentoring Program & Directing Initiative.

As the company continues to pursue these initiatives and increase its diversity, Bakish said one of the main takeaways of this moment is to make sure it doesn’t get away.

“We need to ensure that what we’re doing is durable and sustained—and not just of the moment. It’s easy for the next thing to show up, because that’s the world we live in,” he said. “This is too important to get lost.”

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