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.


Taliban confront fake news and social media in propaganda war

Updated 15 February 2019
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Taliban confront fake news and social media in propaganda war

  • The Taliban’s official spokesman now tweets real-time updates about battlefield operations
  • Its media arm stays in direct contact with journalists on a range of messaging apps

ISLAMABAD: Fighting “fake” news, wrestling with social media, and deploying an intern army — the Taliban’s sprawling propaganda machine embraces modernity even as the group vows to enforce Islamist controls on journalists if it returns to power.
Notorious for banning TV and radio under its iron-fisted 1996-2001 regime, the militants have proven surprisingly deft at adapting to the ever-changing nature of modern media.
The Taliban’s official spokesman now tweets real-time updates about battlefield operations and its media arm stays in direct contact with journalists on a range of messaging apps.
“Media is considered one side of the struggle,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP via Whatsapp.
“We are not against modern technology,” a senior Taliban source with links to the insurgents’ media wing told AFP.
“This is the need of the hour and using it is not against Islamic shariah.”
But the source admits his team struggles at times to control their own narrative.
High-profile interviews have taken place without the media wing’s knowledge, sparking hurried denials along with confusion over the identity of the interviewee and whether he can really claim to speak for the Taliban.
Unverified leaks to media outlets from alleged Taliban sources are frequent.
Fake or unauthorized accounts sprout often on social media, while their official Facebook pages and Twitter handles are regularly banned only to be restarted under another name.
Even the official spokesman, Mujahid, is widely believed to be not one man but a moniker used by the information wing to issue statements.
The operation can be dizzying, admits the Taliban source.
The increasingly refined production has not gone unnoticed, with NATO regularly briefing top officials on Taliban content.
“It gives us an idea of what the group is thinking about that day,” said Col. Knut Peters, spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Kabul.
The casualty figures they release are often wildly exaggerated, but the group has been known to describe their operations more accurately, with fewer outlandish battlefield claims.
“The Taliban have discovered that truth has a greater impact than fiction,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for International Crisis Group.
Journalists said insurgents are also often more responsive than the government.
“When a journalist was killed in Farah province, (a few) weeks back, I wrote to the Taliban spokesman, and I got the reply in minutes,” said A. Mujeeb Khalvatgar, the director of an Afghan media support group, who said he is still waiting for a statement from the president’s office.
Information remains difficult to verify, however. Pakistani senior journalist Tahir Khan, who showed AFP a stream of messages, photos and voice notes from the Taliban on his mobile phone, said the information was “not usually correct.”
But in a campaign like this, the battle for the truth might not matter. “This war... one major factor is psychological propaganda,” he added.
Its value is demonstrated by how high the media operation goes.
The Taliban leadership gives orders to a handful of high-ranking militants responsible for the group’s media strategy, the militant source said.
They work across five different language services — Pashto, Dari, English, Urdu and Arabic — with dozens of volunteers who produce multimedia content.
Print magazines target rural audiences without mobile phones, while slick propaganda videos and songs reach the illiterate.
The army of interns include journalism school students, along with IT experts who monitor the latest trends, the source claimed.
“They are servants of God, volunteers,” he said.
The Islamists maintained strict control over media during their brutal rule. Most foreign journalists fled the country, while Afghan reporters often worked undercover for fear of being violently harassed or accused of spying.
In the 17 years since the US invasion, Afghanistan’s media has flourished.
But their success has made them targets, starting in 2016, when the Taliban killed seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo — the first major attack on Afghan media since 2001.
Journalists have faced killings, attacks and abductions. In 2018 Afghanistan was ranked the most dangerous country for journalists in the world.
“Now (the Taliban are) using media a lot. It doesn’t mean they believe in freedom of expression,” said Khalvatgar.
“It means that they know how to use the media... as a propaganda tool, not as a right of the people.”
Meanwhile unprecedented talks between the Taliban and Washington have sparked fears of a potential US exit and a possible return to power for the insurgents.
The Taliban source said the group has no wish to shutter Afghan outlets — but journalists would have to comply with an unspecified “code of conduct” in line with Islamic shariah.
Female anchors, common in Afghanistan today, would not be allowed on camera.
“It’s better that they stay at home or join some other respectable profession,” said the Taliban source.
But foreign media would be welcomed, he claimed, unlike in the past.
“We sheltered Osama [bin Laden] and provided him all our respect because he was our guest,” he said.
“Everyone who comes from any other country will be our guest.”