Ex-Producer Accuses Al Roker Entertainment of Diversity Initiative Failure

Legal Battle Over Diversity Policies Surfaces in Media

by Zain ul Abedin
Ex-Producer Accuses Al Roker Entertainment of Diversity Initiative Failure
© Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

In a notable legal development, former executive producer Bill Schultz has filed a lawsuit against Al Roker and his production company, alleging failure to adhere to a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative. The suit, which surfaced in documents published by The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, accuses the "Today" show host and his firm, Al Roker Entertainment, of neglecting a critical mandate from PBS to integrate Black writers into their animated series "Weather Hunters." According to Schultz, the company devised methods to circumvent this directive by allowing Black writers to merely revise scripts initially crafted by White writers, rather than employing them as full staff writers.

The complaint details a specific incident where a Black producer who challenged this approach was subsequently disciplined, prompting Schultz to voice his concerns directly to Roker and other top executives. Despite his advocacy for the DEI policy, Schultz claims he was targeted with baseless accusations of contract violations, leading to his suspension and eventual termination in 2023.

Diversity Efforts Questioned

The lawsuit criticizes Al Roker Entertainment for its superficial compliance with the PBS mandate, portraying it as a checkbox rather than an essential commitment to diversity. "They perceived the inclusion of ‘BIPOC’ writers not as an enrichment but as a hurdle, easily bypassed with deceitful strategies," the document states.

This alleged disregard extends to the company's broader management philosophy, which Schultz argues failed to recognize or value the opportunities provided by the DEI initiative. Further aggravating the issue is the significant financial and creative control Al Roker Entertainment wielded over "Weather Hunters," despite PBS being the primary financier.

This control, Schultz asserts, was misused to sidestep the diversity objectives central to the show's mission. Schultz is now seeking substantial reparations, demanding $10 million in damages along with attorneys' fees from Roker and his company.

Reflecting on his nine-year tenure with the show, Schultz expressed a deep belief in the project's potential to offer enriching content for children while simultaneously fostering new and diverse voices in the industry. "My commitment to ‘Weather Hunters’ was rooted in the conviction that it could be both an educational resource for young viewers and a platform for those voices that need to be heard to truly resonate," Schultz stated.