ABC names first black woman to lead major TV network

LOS ANGELES (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Walt Disney Co.'s ABC named Ms Channing Dungey president of entertainment, the first black woman to lead a major broadcast network. She succeeds Mr Paul Lee, who stepped down amid steep viewer losses this season.

Ms Dungey helped launch hits such as Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, both from producer Shonda Rhimes, and the military drama Quantico. She reports to Mr Ben Sherwood, chairman of the Disney-ABC Television Group, the network said on Wednesday in a statement. She previously was executive vice-president for drama development, movies and miniseries at ABC.

The lack of diversity in Hollywood has become a rallying cry for minority groups, especially after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in January nominated an all-white slate of actors for the Oscars for the second year in a row. Several of the shows Ms Dungey has worked on feature minorities in lead roles.

ABC has suffered the worst audience losses of the four major broadcast networks this season, with total viewers down 13 per cent from a year earlier, according to data released on Wednesday by Nielsen. The network's audience has declined 15 per cent in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that advertisers target.

"Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming that resonates with viewers," Mr Sherwood said in the statement.