Posted on September 19, 2021

Hollywood Says Its Antiracism Push Is Not a ‘Fad.’ Is the Industry Keeping Its Promises?

Greg Braxton and Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2021

When massive protests erupted nationwide last summer after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the entertainment industry was initially slow to respond. {snip}


Companies pledged millions to support organizations dedicated to social justice. A number of internal programs and pipelines to promote diversity and inclusion were established or expanded. More transparency in dealing with issues revolving around race was promised.

Anti-racist programming came to broadcast news shows and kids cable channels alike. Multiple companies implemented training and education initiatives and conversation series about race for employees and executives.


Although the protests have quieted, studios, networks and producers say they remain committed to racial justice and inclusion. {snip}


This summer, The Times reached out to entertainment companies for a progress report on their actions and pledges of last year. Many issued detailed responses saying that inclusion and attention to racial justice remain a top priority. Here are the highlights:

Financial contributions


Amazon: The online giant announced last June it would donate $11 million to several organizations, including Black Lives Matter, the ACLU Foundation and the NAACP. It also said that 100% of employee contributions to those groups would be matched, up to $10,000 per employee. Direct interactions with those organizations, including recruitment and education, has continued.

Bad Robot: The production company owned by director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, partnered with the Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams Family Foundation to provide $10 million over five years to social justice organizations, including Black Lives Matter and the Community Coalition of South L.A. The number of groups expanded to 11 this year, including Ghetto Film School and Stop AAPI Hate.

Comcast Corp.: The company, which includes NBCUniversal and Sky in Europe, last year pledged $100 million — $75 million in cash and $25 million in ad time — to groups such as the National Urban League, the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP. In January, the NBCUniversal News Group launched NBCU Academy, a multiplatform journalism training and development program at 17 academic partners including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The initiative is backed by a $6.5 million investment.

Sony Corp: The Tokyo electronics giant’s music division launched a $100 million fund to support anti-racist and social justice initiatives. So far, the company has donated $25 million to about 300 organizations. One of the grantees, U.K.’s Key 4 Life, worked with the company to develop a rehabilitation program for young ex-offenders to fast-track employment.

ViacomCBS: The corporate parent of MTV, CBS, BET, Comedy Central, Showtime and Paramount Pictures in 2020 pledged $5 million to several groups , including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Amnesty International. The company this year endowed $1 million to establish the ViacomCBS HBCU Diversity in Journalism Scholarship for students to attend the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Walt Disney Co.: Disney pledged $5 million to existing and new organizations. To date, according to the company’s 2020 social responsibility report, Disney has made commitments to groups such as the NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, United Negro College Fund, Black Girls Code, ARRAY 101 and Hidden Genius Project. The company said in 2021 it also would begin tracking its social initiatives with a goal that more than 50% of its charitable giving would go to programs directly serving underrepresented communities.

Warner Music Group: The $100-million Warner Music Group/Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund has committed $12.9 million to organizations. Those groups include the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which aims to remove barriers to voting for formerly convicted persons, and the Black Futures Lab, which used its investment to register Black voters through its #BlackToTheBallot voter engagement campaign.

Universal Music Group: The world’s largest music company’s Task Force for Meaningful Change fund contributed to the Black Lives Matter organization and more than 100 other groups, following up with secondary donations to organizations such as World Central Kitchen, select Boys & Girls Clubs of America and housing organizations such as the Housing Crisis Center in Dallas.

Pipeline programs for talent development


Amazon: The Howard Entertainment Program, a first-of-its-kind, fully accredited partnership between an HBCU and a major studio, was established to give students hands-on industry experience.

Fox: Fox Inclusion and Fox Learning & Development developed and launched a company-wide Inclusion Education Series, speaking to several issues including education, health and wellness, that also seeks to amplify diverse leaders within Fox. Fox Alternative Entertainment launched Fastrack in January to nurture producers with diverse backgrounds and create a pipeline of new talent behind the camera.

NBCUniversal: In addition to existing programs for live-action film screenwriters and directors, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group this year launched its Universal Animation Writers Program, which identifies and develops an inclusive pool of talent. The one-year paid program partners with NBCU-affiliated units including DreamWorks Animation and Illumination Entertainment. NBCUniversal has named DE&I executive leaders across its various business units, in such areas as content, development programs, employee engagement and supplier diversity.

Sony: The Culver City movie studio signed a pipeline partnership and first-look deal with Jeff Friday Media (the production company of Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival). Through the deal, the studio gets first consideration for features submitted to the festival.

ViacomCBS: In September 2020, MTV Entertainment Group established its First Time Directors Program, which calls for 50 films across Paramount Network, MTV, Comedy Central and other networks from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) filmmakers and female directors. The division in December committed $250 million over three years to support content from women- and BIPOC-owned and operated production companies.

WarnerMedia: Producer Charles D. King’s media company Macro and The Black List, a marketplace for unproduced scripts, teamed with Warner Bros. Pictures to create a feature screenwriter incubator. The initiative allows writers of color to develop a film idea to pitch to a Warner Bros. executive.

Internal processes and goal-setting


Bad Robot: For several years, Bad Robot has instituted an internal requirement of interviewing a diverse slate of candidates for every open position that is commensurate with the United States population. The company says its employees are 48% people of color and 60% women.

Sony Music: Talent pipeline and development strategies include Sony Music University (SonyMusicU) College Ambassador program, which allows students from a variety of backgrounds to work with industry experts to sharpen their professional skills. SonyMusicU now has a network of 65 campuses — including more than a dozen HBCU partners. About 40% of SonyMusicU participants have moved on to full-time employment with Sony or elsewhere in the music industry.

ViacomCBS: CBS Chief Executive George Cheeks ordered that the casts of all unscripted series starting in 2021 be at least 50% BIPOC. This summer, reality shows “Big Brother” and “Love Island” premiered with casts that met that criteria. The company last year entered into a development deal with the NAACP for scripted and unscripted fare. Several projects in the partnership are in development.