LEVERAGING OUR CONTENT
Given our immense reach, our content can help change hearts and minds. We are unwavering that diversity and inclusion must be present in the content we help to create. This commitment also includes the creators, writers, artists, and showrunners who lead behind the scenes, as well as the supporting supply chain.
CONTENT FOR CHANGE
Content for Change is an initiative that aims to transform our creative ecosystem—from the content we produce to the creative supply chain that powers it to the culture that underpins everything we do. In 2020, BET created Content for Change, catalyzing efforts to dismantle the narratives that enable intolerance, stereotypes and systemic racism. In 2021, ViacomCBS expanded the initiative, extending the efforts across the company and the globe
The initiative is grounded in data-driven research and centered on three areas of commitment: content, creative supply chain, and culture.
We will counteract racism, bias, stereotypes and hate with insights-informed content and amplify stories of underrepresented audiences across our ecosystem.
For the launch phase, we partnered with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Foundation to study mental health depictions across 29 shows in the ViacomCBS portfolio. We will use the results to enhance how we tell stories about mental health. We will continue this partnership by analyzing 60 series across other key demographic distinctions like gender, age, LGBTQ+ identification, disability status, race and ethnicity.
We will transform our content creation process, ensuring equity at every stage—from talent to production to the writers’ room—while enlisting the participation of our partners, suppliers, and vendors.
We’ll build on our existing work supporting a new generation of creators from underrepresented communities, with a renewed focus on hiring emerging talent and moving to new paradigms that inject equity into our talent pipelines.
We will continue to evolve our corporate culture to create a workplace centered on diversity, inclusion and belonging that’s built on equal opportunities for access and advancement.
We know that everything we do starts with our people, so we will continue to engage our employees with programs that promote belonging and create an environment where everyone is empowered to succeed.
CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR DIVERSE CREATORS
Across our company and within our brands, we are committed to creating opportunities for diverse talent on camera and behind the scenes. Many long-standing and recent initiatives support this commitment.
ViacomCBS’ SHOWCASE started in 2005 and is a highly anticipated annual hybrid comedy show with live performances and original, creative writing. Casting agents, showrunners and other entertainment executives attend the annual event.
ViacomCBS Directing Initiative aims to create a meaningful network of people of color and women who are aspiring television directors and wish to establish a sustainable career. Participants must have experience and be members of the Directors Guild of America.
The eight-month ViacomCBS Writers Mentoring Program is designed to help new and emerging writers improve their craft and build relationships with network executives and showrunners.
Project CRE8 showcases BET’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and the brand’s longstanding support of emerging talent from the creative community. The program gives aspiring creatives the opportunity to develop an original comedy or feature film for BET.
Launched in 2020, MTV Entertainment Group’s First Time Directors Program provides opportunities for first-time BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) filmmakers and women filmmakers to give rise to multicultural narratives and voices that resonate with audiences around the world.
The Nick Writing Program gives participants exposure to seasoned writers and executives and a chance to embark on a career as a writer for Nickelodeon’s scripted live-action and animated television productions.
The Nick Artist Program offers aspiring artists from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to hone their skills while working on our animated television shows in three tracks: storyboard, general and computer graphics generalist.
In 2021, Simon & Schuster launched the "Books Like Us First Novel Contest" which finds new voices from those who struggle to get past the literary industry’s traditional gatekeepers, with a focus on underrepresented writers. Gallery Books is the first adult imprint to host the contest. In future seasons, the contest will rotate among other Simon & Schuster adult imprints.
ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI) launched its “No Diversity, No Commission” content policy across the company’s international properties, effective October 2020. The policy, which started at ViacomCBS Networks U.K. in July 2020, is designed to promote and increase diversity in content and production. Among other changes, the policy requires production companies to meet prescribed diversity and inclusion guidelines prior to getting a final sign-off from VCNI. The policy also includes “New Faces, New Voices,” a search for diverse contributors that aims to boost on-screen representation, and the “Promotion Opportunity Project,” created to identify and support the promotion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) production talent in the UK.
Previously, Channel 5 commissioned shows under the Diverse Indie Initiative, which it co-founded with The TV Collective in 2019 with the intent to partner with the most culturally diverse production companies to create mainstream programs for the channel. At BET UK, a $1m (£714k) commissioning budget was created to invest in new UK originals addressing themes and topical issues relevant to young, Black British audiences.
In October 2021, ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS) launched VIS Social Impact. The new studio division will develop groundbreaking social impact-driven content addressing climate, equity, and health for the ViacomCBS portfolio of brands, including Paramount+, as well as for third-party partners. VIS Social Impact is part of Content for Change and will also champion diverse creators and content focused on underrepresented communities. VIS Social Impact commissioned “Protest & Progress” from world-renowned, history-making photographer and social activist, Misan Harriman. The studio is also launching an inclusive writers’ room focused on scripted ideas powered by a diverse group of creatives, with a strong presence of participants from LGBTQ+ communities led by actor, writer and director Thishiwe Ziqubu. Earlier in May, 2021, VCNI launched Narrativas Negras, a writing room of Black writers dedicated to ”developing representative and inclusive content.” The writing team is based in Brazil and led by Marton Olympio.
OUR LEGACY OF
We are passionate about creating content and experiences that connect with and celebrate our audiences in more than 180 countries.
This commitment has shaped a long history and rich tradition of influential entertainment brands. ViacomCBS founded Logo, the first ad-supported cable channel inspired by the LGBTQ+ community, and operates BET, the oldest and most prominent cable network devoted to Black culture, which has successfully branched into live experiences, streaming, and other platforms.
TV & Film
After four decades of creating hit shows and franchises like the “BET Awards”--an international cultural touchstone and one of the most-watched award shows on cable television--BET remains the nation's leading multiplatform provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs programming for the Black audience. With buzz-worthy shows from Tyler Perry (“The Oval,” “Sistas,” “House of Payne”) and a commitment to Content for Change through socially conscious programs like “Boiling Point” (an investigative series focusing on racial injustices), the annual “NAACP Image Awards”, “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” (special and fundraiser) and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s National Town Hall and Phoenix Awards, the network has grown to serve more than 125 million households. BET+, the preeminent streaming service for Black audiences, launched in 2019. BET Studios, an unprecedented studio venture that offers equity ownership for Black content creators, launched in September 2021, with principal partners Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.
With Queen Latifah at the helm, “The Equalizer” became one of broadcast television’s top scripted series. The show is one example of how CBS is making positive inroads in expanding culturally relevant programming while advancing inclusion both in front of and behind the camera. While the work to make greater progress continues, shows like “The Equalizer,” “The Neighborhood,” NCIS: Hawaiʻi,” “Ghosts,” “CSI: Vegas,” “Bob 💗 Abishola,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Magnum P.I.,” “United States of Al,” “FBI, “Survivor,” “Love Island,” “Tough As Nails” and “Big Brother” are among the series and specials that are helping the network meet its bold inclusion goals set in 2020.
In partnership with creators like Tarana J. Burke, Ilana Pena and Larry Teng, CBS Studios is supporting BIPOC storytellers by bringing diverse content to a wide range of platforms. We’ve also partnered with Sheila Ducksworth, who was appointed president of the new CBS/NAACP production venture. Through these collaborations, along with our award-winning series “The Good Fight” and “Star Trek: Discovery,” and our roster of shows like “The Neighborhood,” “NCIS: Hawai’i,” “Ghosts,” “CSI: Vegas,” “Evil,” “Diary of a Future President,” “Swagger” and “The Game,” the studio is committed to furthering the progress of inclusive storytelling and diverse representation in front of and behind the camera, throughout all of its productions.
With its global reach and history as a definer of culture, the brands within the MTV Entertainment Group (MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel, Pop TV, CMT, VH1, TV Land, Logo and their respective content studios) advance diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice through cutting-edge content and campaigns. Programming under the MTV Entertainment banner includes pioneering shows like “The Real World” and Emmy Award winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race” that have advanced inclusion on a global scale. In December 2020, MTV Entertainment Group committed $250 million over three years to support women and BIPOC filmmakers to create diverse, unscripted content. The division is well known for its social campaigns, including those centered on voting, mental health and anti-racism.
From day one, Nickelodeon has been at the forefront of creating content that depicts the full spectrum of diversity in childrens' lives and the world they live in. The brand has a proven track record of consciously defying the conventional wisdom of what kinds of characters and stories should be showcased on TV for a kid and family audience. The Nickelodeon portfolio represents diversity in all forms across all programs, in shows like the iconic “Dora the Explorer,” a global phenomenon that has crossed social, racial and language boundaries, and has a following of millions of children around the world. The brand continues this legacy with “Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan,” “The Casagrandes,” "Blue's Clues & You!," "Danger Force," “Santiago of the Seas” and the latest addition to Nickelodeon's live-action lineup hit, "That Girl Lay Lay. Our Nick Helps online resources offers a series of “Talk and Take Action” guides, including anti-racism guides that further our company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by providing the important adults in kids’ lives with context and action items to engage with kids about racism and hatred.
Since its launch in 2014 (as CBS All Access), Paramount+ has been home to diverse representation and inclusive storytelling, placing women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community at the forefront of its original series, with shows like “The Good Fight,” “Star: Trek: Discovery,” “The Twilight Zone” and “Why Women Kill.”
Paramount Pictures has launched a partnership with Culture•House, a Black-, Brown- and women-owned production company and cultural consultancy, to ensure Paramount Pictures continues on a path of visionary leadership in inclusive storytelling and remains at the forefront of cultural competency across the spectrum of our creative collaborators. Paramount Pictures joined CBS in signing on to the Ruderman Family Foundation Disability Pledge to audition actors with disabilities for studio productions at Paramount Pictures. Ruderman recognized Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place Part II” with The Ruderman Seal of Approval for Authentic Representation, an award that recognizes films and TV series that demonstrate a commitment toward full inclusiveness in popular culture.
SHOWTIME has consistently told stories about diverse communities for more than two decades. Beginning with groundbreaking and beloved series like “Soul Food,” “Queer as Folk” and “The L Word®,” the brand’s dedication to inclusive content continues today with late-night talk show “Desus & Mero®,” Lena Waithe’s “The Chi,” “The L Word®: Generation Q,” and “Work in Progress.” Following the success of the groundbreaking “Desus & Mero®,” SHOWTIME is continuing to redefine the late-night landscape with “Ziwe,” a no-holds-barred variety sketch series that challenges America’s discomfort with race, politics, and other cultural issues.
CBS News launched its multifaceted Race and Culture Unit in 2020 to work closely with the executive producers of all platforms to help shape coverage and ensure that the division’s reporting reflects diverse perspectives. CBS Village, a cross-platform franchise led by the Race and Culture Unit, was launched the same year to showcase the organization’s inclusive, original reporting and cover issues that affect traditionally underrepresented communities across platforms. The Unit’s primetime specials include “Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy”, hosted by Gayle King, and “The Chauvin Verdict,” anchored by Norah O’Donnell and King. For “John Lewis: Celebrating a Hero”--a news special hosted by King, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey--the Race and Culture Unit produced some of the historical news segments. The Unit also produced “Asian Americans: Battling Bias,” which examined the attacks against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and streamed on CBSN.
As a world leader in sports broadcasting, CBS Sports has long upheld the idea that sports are a beacon of multiculturalism and diversity, and that every game holds the ability to advance inclusion through shared experiences and content. That idea has been fully supported with programming that has featured the Black Lives Matter movement, Asian and Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month, Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, as well as content highlighting LGBTQ+ and women’s issues. In 2020, following the death of George Floyd and the ensuing global protests against racism and police brutality, CBS Sports expanded programs and campaigns around issues of inclusion, equity, race and social justice. Content included “8:46,” a campaign that featured personal stories and messages spread out across eight minutes and 46 seconds from some of CBS Sports’ Black voices, such as James Brown, Nate Burleson, Swin Cash, Charles Davis, Brian Jones, Clark Kellogg, Lisa Leslie and Brandon Marshall. The campaign was created to help advance the conversation and create substantive change in the fight against racial injustice.
CBS Sports also broadcast “Portraits in Black,” a day of programming devoted to stories focusing on the experience of the Black athlete, including “CBS Sports Connected: The American Dream,” a look at the Black Lives Matter movement through the eyes of players and coaches. Content related to Hispanic Heritage Month, AAPI Month and Native American Heritage Month was also highlighted, with special vignettes of athletes shown throughout the months, while Pride Month was celebrated with LGBTQ+-focused storytelling, including a special Pride-themed episode of “We Need to Talk,” which aired on the CBS Sports Network. For that episode, Lesley Visser sat down with former professional tennis player Martina Navratilova, who detailed her experience as a gay athlete and the progress that has been made in the LGBTQ+ space in sports.
Simon & Schuster seeks to ensure its books and its audiences fully reflect our diverse society.
In 2020, Simon & Schuster created a new Multicultural Marketing department to highlight key titles from underrepresented group authors. Simon & Schuster also launched two new imprints specializing in Black voices and stories: Black Privilege Publishing in 2020, headed by celebrity and author Charlamagne tha God; and 13A in 2021, named after the amendment that abolished slavery. Black Privilege was launched with the publishing of “State of Emergency,” by Tamika D. Mallory, the cofounder of both the 2017 Women’s March and the social justice organization Until Freedom; and 13A debuted with “LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About” from singer and foodie Patti LaBelle.
Simon & Schuster’s long history of amplifying diverse narratives and voices includes Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking, Broadway-produced and Obie Award-winning drama For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (1977) and Taylor Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, three-volume history of the civil rights movement Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 (1988).