CBS Crafting Message to Respond to Harassment Allegations
Seats are getting hot over at CBS’ flagship news magazine 60 Minutes, and more than a few people are openly wondering who’s in charge. This confusion came after a huge story was published in The New Yorker announcing that Jeff Fager, executive producer of 60 Minutes, had been accused of “unwanted advances” and “enabling harassment”.
Fager says there’s no truth to the allegations, taking a stance and delivering a message that leave no question as to where he stands on the issue. He’s going to defend both his name and his program against all comers.
But that stance has only magnified the speculation that Fager will be replaced, sooner than later. This pressure continues to build, and some are openly speculating that both Fager and CBS CEO Les Moonves are on respective hot seats. That speculation grew even hotter when staffers showed up to work on the program, and Fager was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Bill Owens seemed to be running the show.
Others are saying there is no reason for alarm. That Fager always takes a vacation around this time of year, and, this year, it just ran a little longer than usual. From a messaging standpoint, that’s a plausible excuse, since 60 Minutes doesn’t produce any episodes over the summer, and many staffers, including Fager, tend to use the break for personal time.
All of this speculation will have to be answered in the next few weeks. 60 Minutes is scheduled to return to the air after its summer break in September, and the program will need to get some shows done soon to make that happen. Fager says he will be back in plenty of time, but CBS is not saying anything, declining to speak to reporters about the issue.
This silence could be telling. CBS has already admitted to the press that they are investigating the allegations against Fager, and the company has said nothing since then. Some are saying this lack of a message telegraphs a company struggling to come up with the right message to offer to an audience that has been left to wonder and a leader who continues to proclaim his innocence.
For CBS, the balance is difficult. They don’t want to overreact, but the company also must do something with these allegations. The summer break provided some latitude to look into things without making an announcement about Fager’s fate at the beginning of the investigation, but that window of opportunity is closing fast.