Top NBCU Exec Pledges "Broader Culture Assessment" In Addition to Network Investigation

Mark Lazarus-Getty - H 2020
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

NBCUniversal TV and Streaming chairman Mark Lazarus informed staff Friday that the company plans to push forward with its investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace culture that were raised in a Hollywood Reporter story centered on NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy and his top deputy, unscripted chief Meredith Ahr.  Telegdy unceremoniously exited the company Thursday as part of a larger restructuring, while Ahr remains in place. 

Lazarus, alongside NBCU CEO Jeff Shell, is overseeing a major restructuring of the company's TV division. That included news that Telegdy had departed the company. The news arrived a week after THR published a story in which scores of current and former executives alleged Telegdy fostered a toxic culture. NBC immediately launched an investigation into the culture at the network. A source close to the investigation at NBC noted the probe will be conducted by a different outsider than the person who found a "culture of diversity" at America's Got Talent following former judge Gabrielle Union's allegations of racism and homophobia on the show. Union's attorney, Bryan Freedman previously told THR that NBC’s outside investigator, an older white woman, “seemed incapable of perceiving the more subtle forms of racism” that Union experienced on AGT

In his note to staff, Lazarus revealed the company will carry on with the investigation after Telegdy's departure as well as launch a broader cultural assessment at the conglomerate. (Read the memo, below.) This is the latest example of efforts Lazarus is conducting in a bid to make his mark at the company. In July, Lazarus sent a memo to staff detailing expanded protections for employees both on programming that's produced in-house and from third-party suppliers. The increased efforts come amid a continued reckoning in Hollywood as executives, stars and showrunners alike are increasingly being held accountable for inappropriate behavior. The news arrives after NBC's America's Got Talent — which is produced by a third-party supplier, Fremantle — opted to not renew Gabrielle Union's contract after a one-season run. Union has filed a complaint against NBC and Fremantle in which she detailed an alleged "toxic culture" on the veteran series. 

Here's Lazarus' latest note to staff:

I know you all received the news yesterday about how we are restructuring our business to better align resources across our television divisions. I look forward to the future of our company, but I know it also brings up a number of questions.  Please know that I am working closely with the new leadership team to bring more clarity around the new organization and we will have more to share in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I want to update you on how we will address the allegations about inappropriate behavior that were reported in the press.
 
I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know many of you yet, but I want you to know I deeply believe that we all deserve to work in an environment in which we feel respected and valued.
 
To that end, we are going to conduct both an investigation into the specific allegations, which will be led by an experienced outside investigator, and a broader culture assessment.  The culture assessment will be facilitated by NBCU’s corporate Fair Employment team and will give me the chance to learn more about your experiences.  I want to hear from you, and I encourage all of you to participate.  Once it’s complete, you have my commitment to develop and communicate an action plan based on your feedback.
 
The investigation and assessment will happen simultaneously and will begin in the next few days.  As always, if you have concerns that you want to make sure are heard now or in the future, please contact Comcast NBCUniversal Listens by calling 1-877-40-LISTENS or at www.ComcastNBCUniversalListens.com.  You will have the option of reporting anonymously.
 
I believe the building blocks of great culture start with inclusion, transparency and trust; and I know we can get there together. 
 
Mark