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NBCUniversal pushes out chair of NBC Entertainment over allegations of workplace harassment

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2012
                                The company said today that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy, right, would be leaving the company. Telegdy and Jennifer Salke, left, arrive for the NBC network upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2012

    The company said today that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy, right, would be leaving the company. Telegdy and Jennifer Salke, left, arrive for the NBC network upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

NBCUniversal, the media giant owned by cable operator Comcast, has pushed out the leader of its network entertainment group amid a pending investigation into claims of workplace harassment.

The company said today that Paul Telegdy, chair of NBC Entertainment, would be leaving the company. Telegdy, a longtime television executive, was about to be investigated by outside counsel hired by NBCUniversal after accusations from several Hollywood stars, including actress Gabrielle Union, that he fostered a toxic work environment.

Union was a judge on the NBC prime-time hit “America’s Got Talent.” She was ousted from the show in 2019 after she alleged instances of racist and otherwise offensive behavior on the set. In June Union filed a harassment complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing against NBCUniversal and the show’s producers.

Telegdy, a former BBC executive, was made sole chair of NBC Entertainment in October after a series of executive departures, putting him in charge of NBC’s prime-time lineup. Earlier, he was responsible for the network’s reality programming and oversaw franchises like “The Voice” and “American Ninja Warrior,” in addition to “America’s Got Talent.”

Telegdy’s departure comes as Hollywood and the broader media industry has started to face a reckoning over entrenched racism and gender discrimination on studio lots and in network boardrooms. The leadership of NBCUniversal and Comcast is composed mostly of white men, as at many other media conglomerates.

After Union lodged complaints against the network, Telegdy warned her agent that she “should be careful of who she called racist,” according to her filing with the state agency. The Hollywood Reporter chronicled several instances of Telegdy’s alleged behavior in a July 31 article that prompted NBCUniversal to conduct its investigation.

NBCUniversal declined to comment on the investigation.

Separately, the company announced Thursday a sweeping change to its leadership ranks across its NBC properties and cable networks.

The company consolidated its various networks by breaking down each unit. Each channel will no longer be led individual executives and will now be overseen by Frances Berwick, who will be responsible for the business of NBC Entertainment and the cable entertainment networks, including NBC broadcast, Oxygen, USA and Syfy. Berwick had previously led the company’s lifestyle division, a group that included E! and Bravo.

The company said it would hire a new head of programming for the entertainment group to work alongside Berwick. Both executives will report to Mark Lazarus, head of NBCUniversal’s entertainment and streaming divisions.

The reshuffling comes under the leadership of Jeff Shell, who took over as the chief executive of NBCUniversal at the start of this year. In May, the company announced the departure of Andrew Lack, longtime head of the company’s news division. He was effectively replaced by Cesar Conde, chair of Telemundo, in a newly created role with broader oversight.

NBCUniversal has come under pressure as the pandemic continues to wipe out advertising revenue and theatrical sales. The company this week started layoffs as part of a program to cut about 10% of its 35,000-employee workforce.

Total sales for the second quarter fell 25%, to $6.1 billion. The company’s theme parks group took a $399 million loss, and sales at Universal Studios declined nearly a fifth in the period.

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