CBS probes misconduct allegations against CEO Moonves amid legal battle

In this file photo taken on January 19, 2010 CBS President Leslie Moonves arrives for the premiere of CBS Films’ “Extraordinary Measures” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles January 19, 2010. (AFP)
Updated 28 July 2018
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CBS probes misconduct allegations against CEO Moonves amid legal battle

  • A New Yorker report featured claims against Moonves from six women spanning different time periods over two decades
  • The allegations against him surfaced as he is locked in a legal battle over control of CBS

US broadcasting and media company CBS Corp. said it was investigating claims of personal misconduct by its chief executive Leslie Moonves made in a New Yorker magazine article that was published on Friday.
The allegations against Moonves surfaced as he is locked in a legal battle over control of CBS with the company’s largest shareholder, National Amusements Inc, owned by Shari Redstone and her father Sumner who also control media company Viacom .
The New Yorker report featured claims against Moonves from six women spanning different time periods over two decades, from 1985 to 2006. The allegations included sexual assault and unwanted advances.
Reuters could not independently verify the accusations against Moonves.
“I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances,” Moonves said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely,” Moonves said. “But I always understood and respected – and abided by the principle – that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”
One of the women in the story was identified as actress Illeana Douglas. Douglas’ publicist Danny Deraney confirmed her comments in the story.
“Real change will occur when victims of sexual assaults are not stigmatized as whistle blowers, or people with some kind of agenda for coming forward,” Douglas said in a statement.
“Speaking for myself, real change will occur when I can walk through the front doors of CBS and resume the creative and working relationship that was so tragically cut short in 1997,” she added.
According to the New Yorker, 30 current and former CBS employees described harassment, gender discrimination, or retaliation for refusing sexual advances at the company.
CBS said in a statement that it takes each report of misconduct very seriously but it does not believe “the picture of our Company created in The New Yorker represents a larger organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect.” Earlier on Friday, before the New Yorker article was published, CBS said in a statement that its board would promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.

COMBINATION WITH VIACOM
Moonves, 68, joined CBS in 1995 as president of CBS Entertainment and has been CEO since 2006. He is widely credited with turning CBS into one of the top-performing US media companies.
Moonves clashed with Shari Redstone earlier this year over her bid to merge CBS with Viacom Inc, also owned by National Amusements. Moonves resisted that deal because he believed CBS’s prospects were better without taking on Viacom’s turnaround challenges.
A CBS board committee in May turned down the potential merger with Viacom and sued to strip National Amusements of its control of CBS.
Redstone is challenging a plan by CBS to issue a special dividend aimed at cutting National Amusements’ voting power in the company to 17 percent from 80 percent. The trial in a Delaware court is expected to start in October.[nL2N1SO162}
Before the story was published, a spokeswoman for National Amusements Inc. said, “(Shari) Redstone hopes that the investigation of these allegations is thorough, open and transparent.” The spokeswoman declined to comment further. Viacom also declined to comment.
Combining CBS, which owns cable networks including Showtime as well as the CBS TV Network and CBS TV Studios, with Viacom, whose businesses include Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV, would have more negotiating leverage with cable and satellite companies, analysts said.
Viacom shares ended up 4.5 percent at $29.35 on Friday, while CBS shares closed about 6 percent lower at $54.01, as investors speculated that the chances of a merger between the two companies had increased.

#METOO SOCIAL MEDIA MOVEMENT
Multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against politicians, business leaders and entertainers in the United States have been made in the past year, leading to resignations, often inspired by the #MeToo social movement.
Veteran TV journalist Charlie Rose, 76, was fired by CBS in November after being accused by more than 10 women of sexual misconduct. Rose apologized for inappropriate behavior but questioned the accuracy of some of the accounts. Reuters could not independently verify the accusations.
Moonves has been married since 2004 to Julie Chen, a CBS news anchor and TV host. Chen tweeted on Friday that she stands by Moonves and that he is a “good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader.”
The author of the New Yorker article, Ronan Farrow, previously has written reports that contributed to the resignation of Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein from his film and TV studio.
More than 70 women, mostly actresses and other women employed in the movie business, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, including rape, in a series of incidents dating back decades. Weinstein has denied the accusations.


WhatsApp says working with India’s Reliance Jio to curb fake news menace

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 September 2018
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WhatsApp says working with India’s Reliance Jio to curb fake news menace

  • More than 30 people have died this year in mob violence triggered by vitriolic messages on social media and WhatsApp, according to unofficial estimates, and police have previously told Reuters that minorities have been targeted

MUMBAI: Facebook’s WhatsApp is working closely with Reliance Jio to spread awareness of false messages, weeks after the Indian telecoms operator opened up the messaging service to tens of millions of customers using its cheap Internet-enabled phone.
Jio this month gave its more than 25 million JioPhone customers, many of them first-time Internet users, access to WhatsApp at a time when the messaging service is battling false and incendiary texts and videos circulating on its platform.
Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, launched the JioPhone last year at a refundable deposit of 1,500 rupees ($20.60). The device is Internet enabled but didn’t initially allow the use of WhatsApp or have several popular smartphone features.
All new users of the JioPhone get educational material that tells them about spotting a forwarded WhatsApp message and encourages them to share messages thoughtfully, WhatsApp spokesman Carl Woog told Reuters.
“We are working closely with Jio to continue our education campaign for WhatsApp users,” Woog said.
In India’s smaller towns and villages, deep-seated prejudices, often based on caste and religion, and cut-price mobile data can aggravate the so-called fake news problem. Such regions are a key market for cheap devices such as the JioPhone.
More than 30 people have died this year in mob violence triggered by vitriolic messages on social media and WhatsApp, according to unofficial estimates, and police have previously told Reuters that minorities have been targeted in some remote and rural regions.
That has prompted New Delhi to call on WhatsApp to take immediate action to “end this menace.”
WhatsApp has already taken some steps to quell the rise of fake news. It has launched print and radio ad campaigns to educate users and introduced new features on the app including limiting message forward as well as the labelling of forwarded messages.
It has also partnered with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), a New Delhi-based non-profit organization, to spread digital literacy in India’s towns and cities.
DEF will host a workshop in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi this week, WhatsApp’s Woog said.
WhatsApp also plans to expand its outreach program to existing JioPhone users.
Reliance Jio did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
With more than 200 million users, India is a key market for WhatsApp but one where it has had to delay the official launch of its payments services due to the country’s push on data localization.
WhatsApp is currently looking for an India chief and a policy head for the country.
It last month appointed a grievance officer for Indian users at its Menlo Park, California headquarters, like other global tech firms whose grievance officers sit outside of India.
India has, however, said it will toughen up its laws including pushing US tech giants to have their grievance officers in India.
($1 = 72.8000 Indian rupees)