A fight is developing between two major civil rights leaders about Katz Radio Group President Stuart Olds being included in a Martin Luther King Jr. forum this week being sponsored by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The Rev. Al Sharpton--who in 1998 publicly disclosed a Katz Media training memo for WABC radio urging managers sell against minority media in part by suggesting advertisers were reaching "prospects, not suspects''--said Jan. 11 that Katz had never disclosed the memo's writer or any resulting disciplinary action and therefore the company's inclusion on the panel gives the company an undeserved "perspective of legitimacy'' on minority issues.
Mr. Olds is to speak Jan. 14 at Rev. Jackson's Rainbow/Push Coalition's 2nd Annual Wall Street Conference as part of a panel on advertising opportunities for minority broadcasters.
"I would question why [Mr. Olds] was invited until Katz reveals who wrote the memo and whether they are still working there," said Rev. Sharpton. "We knocked out a baseball owner [Marge Schott] for similar things. Why should we be dealing differently with Katz?"
Rev. Sharpton also said his National Action Network, not Rev. Jackson's group, kicked off the fight against Katz by revealing the memo.
"If Local 150 starts a labor action, Local 250 can't settle it," he said. "Whoever did it should answer to those who kicked off the action."
A spokeswoman for Rev. Jackson's Rainbow/Push Coalition said Katz has increased by more than 300% the hiring of minorities in its urban radio division and as a result of meetings with Rev. Jackson.
"We respect [Rev. Sharpton's] right to voice his dismay, but we always welcome various points of views," said the spokeswoman.
The panel discussion was supposed to have eight participants and be chaired by Cathy Sandoval, chief of the Federal Communications Commission office that on Jan. 13 is due to release a report on minority advertising.
However at least one member of the panel withdrew on Jan. 11, citing the presence of Mr. Olds.
Pierre Sutton, president of Inner City Broadcasting and chairman of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, said he was unaware Mr. Olds' inclusion on the panel.
"Perhaps Mr. Jackson didn't realize it, but by including him, we are allowing Katz an out from a difficulty that was never fully acknowledged," said Mr. Sutton.
Mr. Olds expressed regret at Rev. Sharpton's comment and Mr. Sutton's action.
"I agree with Mr. Sharpton that we haven't gone far enough. We are on the right path, but this is not something that happens overnight," he said. "We are just trying to do what is right. If I am an issue, I don't mean to be."
Mr. Olds said the May 1997 Katz memo never represented company policy or reflected its beliefs or attitudes and the reason he hasn't disclosed the memo's writer or their fate is because the issue is a "personnel matter" which the company doesn't publicly discuss.
Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.