In late January 2021, the President of CBS Television Stations and the stations’ SVP of News were suspended while parent ViacomCBS investigated an increasing number of allegations against them for gender and racial misconduct.
It appears the claims, first reported by Meg James for the Los Angeles Times, are meritorious enough to lead ViacomCBS to severe its ties with the pair.
In a statement shared by CBS News, the company confirmed that Peter Dunn, who led the CBS O&Os, and news division leader David Friend will not return to their positions and will be exiting the company.
“On an interim basis, Bryon Rubin will continue to run the stations group while Kim Godwin will continue her oversight of Stations’ news operations until new leadership is in place,” ViacomCBS explained.
The announcement comes as an external investigation into CBS Television Stations management, conducted by Keisha-Ann Gray at Proskauer Rose, is still in progress, ViacomCBS says.
James’ reporting first brought to light stories that Dunn and Friend allegedly bullied female managers and blocked efforts to hire and retain African American journalists. In particular, James focused on KYW-3 and WPSG-TV in Philadelphia. Dunn ran the stations from 2002-2004, before a five-year run as the head of WCBS-2 in New York. At KYW-3, 45% of the station’s on-air reporters and anchors are Black, indigenous or other people of color.
The immediate response to her article, which followed a separate report questioning the $55 million purchase of WLNY-55 in Nassau-Suffolk and how Dunn received a membership at an exclusive golf club owned by the station’s seller as part of the transaction, was explosive. National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) representatives reportedly met with members of the ViacomCBS C-Suite that James identified as CBS Entertainment CEO George Cheeks and ViacomCBS EVP Marva Smalls, who leads all D&I initiatives at the company.
According to the Times, NABJ leaders demanded that Dunn be dismissed, along with Friend. Friend had been in his role as SVP/News since June 2010 and was also WCBS’s News Director — a role he’s held since 2006.
The NABJ took issue with the hiring practices at WCBS-2, which “only recently” hired a full-time Black male reporter after five years without one. The NABJ also takes WCBS-2 to task for having one full-time Black female reporter and one Black news producer in New York, a market where more racial diversity in the newsroom would reflect the total viewership.
The departure of Dunn concludes a tenure that included a November 2019 honor at the Giants of Broadcasting & Electronic Arts Awards. That award recognizes women and men who’ve had a profound and lasting effect on the broadcast TV industry. He was also selected by RBR+TVBR readers as one of Broadcast Television’s Best Leaders in 2020.