Jackson steps up H'wood PUSH

Calls on biz to improve diversity in talent, exec ranks

Rev. Jesse Jackson has reiterated his intent to lobby Hollywood for greater diversity in its talent and executive ranks, following a meeting of the Rainbow/PUSH Entertainment Initiative attended by 80 minority industryites and others.

The Rainbow/PUSH initiative has two immediate thrusts: jawboning with industry leaders and buying stock in studio parents to facilitate eventual shareholder actions against the companies, if necessary.

"We intend to meet with the heads of the studios to talk through a plan for inclusion," Jackson said Tuesday. "At this point, I don't think it's confrontational."

The committee met Monday night at the Los Angeles home of Judge Greg Mathis, star of the syndicated TV show "Judge Mathis."

"There were people from a great range of disciplines, including writers, directors, financial people and so forth," Jackson said. "I was very impressed by the enthusiasm."

He declined to identify those in attendance beyond those sitting on a project-steering committee that's been drawn from Rainbow/PUSH membership.

"As is the case with most industries, there's not as much minority participation as the industry would like or as those who would like to get into the industry would like," said Mathis, a member of the steering committee and a Rainbow/PUSH national vp.

The Hollywood project seeks to emulate Rainbow/PUSH's previous initiative on Wall Street, he said. That decade-earlier effort engaged business sector luminaries such as then-New York Stock Exchange chief Dick Grasso and Citicorp CEO Sandy Weill in a series of annual conferences aimed at attracting and nurturing minority professionals in the financial-services industry.

The entertainment committee hopes to stage a similar conference in Hollywood within eight to 12 months, Mathis said.

Recent awards-season accolades for black and Latino actors and directors present a misleading sense of strides to date, and more should be done to bring broader minority participation into the industry, Jackson said.

"We're putting together a to-do list, (and) there will be an entertainment industry summit eventually, but we will meet with the industry heads first to establish an understanding of our goals and interests," he said. "And we do intend to buy stock, shares in all of the companies. That way, we have the right of have access to the most information."

So far, Rainbow/PUSH has acquired shares in Time Warner, General Electric and Disney, spokesman Butch Wing said. Organization representatives plan on attending several shareholder meetings this spring to make contacts and spread word of the project, Wing added.

"Our concern is that vertically and horizontally, there must be fair representation in training and other areas," said Jackson, who recently took his message to MPAA executive vp Dean Garfield.

Industry contacts during a swing through Los Angeles last month included a tete-a-tete with Universal Studios president Ron Meyer (HR 2/22).