AT&T and Discovery on Tuesday unveiled board members to oversee the soon-to-be Warner Bros. Discovery media company, immediately drawing criticism because the two companies failed to include a Latino board member.
“By failing to bring Latino representation to the boardroom, Warner Bros. Discovery is not only missing a crucial opportunity to build bridges with our community, but also shortchanging the next generation of Latino writers, directors and artists in Hollywood and beyond — and also fans around the world,” Brenda Castillo, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
The coalition posted an altered image of Warner Bros. Discovery’s logo featuring blue skies and puffy white clouds on Twitter. The group mocked the company’s tagline, “Warner Bros. Discovery … the stuff that dreams are made of,” by inserting the words: “Unless You’re Latino.”
Discovery is making final preparations to absorb AT&T’s WarnerMedia, completing the $43-billion merger that was announced in May.
The deal is expected to be complete next month, allowing the New York cable programmer to swallow such storied entertainment assets as HBO, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and the Warner Bros. film and TV studio in Burbank. Discovery will combine those properties with its HGTV, Animal Planet, Food Network and Discovery channels and international networks.
AT&T then will exit the entertainment business.
As part of the agreement, AT&T had the right to appoint seven board members and Discovery could pick six.
AT&T named five people of color to the 13-member board, but no Latinos. Discovery named six white men to the panel.
On Wednesday, additional Latino groups weighed in. UnidosUS, a Washington-based advocacy and civil rights group, said it and nine other organizations, including the Latino Film Institute and the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists, were “outraged” by the slight.
“While we are very pleased to see that there are multiple Black and Asian American members of the board, we note that those members were all appointed by AT&T,” read an open letter posted to the UnidosUS website. “Our coalition has invested considerable time and expense in educating company leaders, including Discovery CEO David Zaslav, about the Hispanic community.”
Discovery channels also lack diversity, the group charged.
“Discovery has zero U.S. Latinx-focused content across their networks, zero Latino executives or creatives, and less than .4% Hispanic leads on all channels,” UnidosUS’s open letter read. “That Discovery did not appoint either a woman or person of color on their slate is extremely concerning and further exacerbates their growing credibility issues when it comes to diversity.”
In her statement, Castillo added: “Consider this: Latinos make up approximately 40% of the population in California — where Warner Brothers was originally founded — but are the least represented at the executive level and board of director positions.”
Discovery and AT&T representatives declined to comment.
This month, the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists blasted WarnerMedia when it announced a lineup for the CNN+ streaming service with no Latino journalists. The company pointed to actress-producer Eva Longoria, who will headline a food and travel show.
On Tuesday, AT&T said it had selected Samuel A. Di Piazza, former global chief executive of PricewaterhouseCoopers International, to serve as board chairman when the new company forms. AT&T shareholders will own 70% of the new company at launch.
Discovery’s longtime chief, David Zaslav, who will become CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, also claimed a seat on the board.
His mentor, cable mogul John Malone, who is currently chairman of the Discovery board, also will become a board member of the new entity.
AT&T nominated the five diverse board members: Debra Lee, former CEO of BET Networks; Li Haslett Chen, chief of commerce platform Narrativ; Paula A. Price, former chief financial officer of Macy’s; Geoffrey Y. Yang, managing director of the private equity firm Redpoint Ventures; and Fazal Merchant, senior advisor to Sixth Street Partners. AT&T also picked Richard W. Fisher, former CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
“We are delighted to have assembled a diverse slate of world-class directors for the Warner Bros. Discovery Board,” AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey said in a statement earlier Tuesday. “These respected leaders bring a wealth of experience in finance, technology, media and entertainment, international trade, venture capital, and digital and direct-to-consumer platforms that is vitally important to the future of Warner Bros. Discovery.”
In addition to Malone and Zaslav, Discovery added Robert R. Bennett, managing director of Hilltop Investments; and Paul A. Gould, a managing director of the Allen & Co. investment banking firm. Both have served as Discovery directors since 2008.
The Advance/Newhouse Partnership will own more than 8% of the new entity. Advance added its CEO, Steven A. Miron, to the board. He has been a Discovery director since 2008.
Steven O. Newhouse, the co-president of Advance, will also join the board of Warner Bros. Discovery.
“This Board brings diverse personal perspectives, strong track records and invaluable industry knowledge,” Zaslav said Tuesday before the National Hispanic Media Coalition issued its statement.