ABC’s Channing Dungey Becomes First Black President of a Major TV Network

Channing Dungey attends the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Channing Dungey attends the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

ABC has announced that Paul Lee is out as president of the broadcast network after five years in the position. Effective immediately, he will be replaced by Channing Dungey, ABC’s vice president of drama development. She is the first black president ever to lead a broadcast network’s entertainment division.

As always with a significant Hollywood shake-up, there are a few layers to this news.

First, the terminology around Lee’s exit is all over the map: The ABC press release says he “decided to step down,” while the Hollywood Reporter claims he was “forced out,” and the New York Times says he “resigned after losing a struggle over the network’s direction.”

Lee had reportedly clashed with Ben Sherwood, who became president of Disney/ABC TV Group a year ago and made the announcement today about Lee leaving. (And when I say “Disney/ABC TV group,” I mean the umbrella company containing all Disney TV operations, including ABC Studios and all Disney properties.)

Lee’s tenure was marked by both successes and failures, just like that of any network president. But he’s perhaps best known for correctly betting big that viewers would want to see less homogeneous, more racially diverse shows — as evidenced by the enormous success of Shonda Rhimes’s multiple “colorblind” series and the growing acclaim for family comedies like Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat.

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SOURCE: Vox – Caroline Framke