ABC made history today with the announcement that Channing Dungey would step in as president of ABC Entertainment—she becomes the first black president of a major U.S. broadcast network. Dungey, formerly the vice president of drama at ABC (she helped develop Scandal and Quantico, among other shows), replaces Paul Lee, who is reported to have clashed creatively with Disney/ABC television president Ben Sherwood.
While there have been and currently are black executives at television networks—perhaps most notably BET CEO Debra L. Lee—Dungey’s appointment is an incredibly significant one for the industry at large. Amid all of the discussion swirling around #OscarsSoWhite, the problem that many people (myself included) have continued to land on is that the problem with diversity starts at the top. Without enough representation in executive positions, women, people of color, and other groups will continue to be slighted in onscreen representation as well, and to have a successful black woman at the helm of one of the big four networks is a promising sign.
Of course, Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the past three years, and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy has erupted under her rein. One figurehead alone can only do so much to bring about change. But ABC already holds one of the most diverse primetime lineups on television at the moment (unlike the academy, which has never been particularly not-white), and Dungey helped to make that happen. From here, hopefully, television representation can only get better.
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