Internal Investigation sweeps GMs out of CBS 2 in both Chicago, L.A.

CBS 2 Chicago GM Derek Dalton out after three years; L.A. GM out too

After ViacomCBS concluded its six-month investigation into racial and sexual harassment at its 28 CBS-owned television stations, the network relived two local station executives of their duties. 

Fired from their positions Thursday were WBBM-TV/CBS 2 general manager Derek Dalton and Los Angeles’ KCBS/KCAL GM Jay Howell as an investigation conducted by the Proskauer Rose Law Firm closed this week. The reasons why they were let go were not disclosed, but it is likely connected to the racist and sexist culture permeating at the station group for the last few years.  

“After six months of an extremely thorough and exhaustive review of our organization and culture, I am writing to let you know the external investigation into leadership at our Stations has concluded and, as a result, we will be seeking new general managers for our Los Angeles and Chicago stations,”, said CBS Television News And Stations boss Wendy McMahon in an e-mail memo sent to staff. No replacements were immediately named. 

The internal investigation at CBS were launched after the Los Angeles Times reported on racial and sexual harassment at the station group several months ago. The reports uncovered a culture of intolerance, including crude remarks from managers about women and minorities. The reports led the network to fire CBS Television Stations head and WCBS-TV general manager Peter Dunn and news exec David Friend last April. During their tenure, they fostered a culture of racism, sexism, ageism, and bullying. It was this type of culture that led former CBS 2 GM Marty Wilke to exit in 2018, as practically all female executives hired under her subsequently left. She was replaced by Dalton, who came from NBC affiliate WHEC in Rochester, N.Y. while Jay Howell came to KCBS/KCAL a year later from sister station KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.

Other than CBS 2’s critically acclaimed reports on wrong home police raids and the launch of CBSN Chicago, there wasn’t much notable about Dalton’s tenure as the station remained in last place in local news ratings race in households and in the key 25-54 demo, as it has been for the last three decades. Racial controversies are nothing new at CBS 2, as the station was the subject of a boycott from the Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1985 leading to ratings collapsing and ten years ago when a maliciously edited video of a 4-year-old mistakenly aired, raising the ire of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and other community activists. 

The same ratings problems also plagued KCBS in Los Angeles for decades, where they’re behind other network-owned stations including two Spanish-language outlets. Meanwhile, co-owned KCAL has long lagged behind Fox-owned KTTV and Nexstar’s KTLA and overall, is barely ahead of Fox’s My Network TV station KCOP. During its days as KHJ-TV, it was the least-watched VHF station in the market.

As reported here earlier this month, Johnny Green Jr. was named GM of WCBS and other CBS New York properties, becoming the first African-American to hold the position at the station. WCBS has fared better in local news ratings than its Chicago and Los Angeles counterparts. 

The shakeup is meant to install a more inclusive environment at the CBS-owned stations. For all of CBS’ dominance in prime-time – especially among total viewers, CBS in top local markets have struggled to make inroads against the top-rated ABC-owned stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia. In the San Francisco Bay Area however, KPIX has done exactly that over former leaders KRON-TV and ABC-owned KGO-TV, with the station recently winning the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news races in households last May. 

To read the full memos from Wendy McMahon and CBS President and CEO George Cheeks, click here

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