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ViacomCBS nets go dark for George Floyd

The channels displayed this message for eight minutes and 46 seconds

ViacomCBS’s US cablenets Comedy Central, MTV, Smithsonian Channel and Nickelodeon paused their programming last night in tribute to George Floyd, the black man killed by a Minnesota police officer last week.

The channels turned their screens dark and displayed the message ‘I can’t breathe’ for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time that Floyd was pinned to the ground by officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee upon Floyd’s neck despite his pleas for help.

Floyd’s death has sparked major civil unrest across the US, with protests and riots leading to curfews in several cities.

In an internal memo, ViacomCBS president of entertainment and youth brands Chris McCarthy revealed the networks would go off-air in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, condemning violence towards African Americans at the hands of the police.

In line with many other companies and social media users across the world, McCarthy also said ViacomCBS would today be observing ‘Blackout Tuesday.’ The company will not conduct business or hold any meetings as a show of solidarity for their black colleagues. The exec also highlighted the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has been disproportionately affecting communities of colour across the US.

McCarthy’s statement read: “While I am not a person of colour and can never fully understand this experience, I am offended by the systemic racism and want to stand together with our communities of colour in the hurt and pain. We must all do our part – discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.

“Therefore, as president of our group, I commit that we will do the following: use our platforms to shine a light on the realities of racial injustice and call for equality, amplify the voices of the communities we serve and provide a call to action for change and foster a culture that deeply values and respects diversity and inclusion.”

Fellow ViacomCBS channel brands VH1, CMT, Logo Media, Paramount Network, BET, CBS Sports and TV Land all went dark on Monday evening.

Children’s network Nickelodeon also expressed solidarity with the movement, halting its scheduled programming to display its Kids’ Bill of Rights, which the network originally put together in 1990.

Nickelodeon screens turned orange for just under nine minutes, with a message reading: “You have the right to be seen, heard, and respected as a citizen of the world. You have the right to a world that is peaceful. You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the colour of your skin. You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice, and hatred. You have the right to an education that prepares you to run the world. You have the right to your opinions and feelings, even if others don’t agree with them.”


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