Viacom Signs Historic Legal Petition Defending LGBT Rights

No one deserves to be fired for their sexual orientation.

This is the logic behind Viacom and 49 other companies’ decision to sign a formal legal petition asking the U.S. 2nd  Court of Appeals to extend a federal law prohibiting employers from firing workers for being gay. This is the first time businesses have explicitly taken this position, according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign group that Viacom consulted with on this issue.

“All Americans deserve the right to go to work and provide for their families without having to fear that they might lose their job simply because of who they are,” said Freedom for All Americans Acting CEO Katie Belanger in an email to Viacom.

“Unfortunately, most states do not have laws explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. That is why this case is so important. We are grateful for the leadership of Viacom and the 49 other businesses who have called on the court to ensure the fair and equal treatment of gay and bisexual employees,” said Belanger.

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VH1 Celebrates 20 Years of Saving the Music with 20 Custom Gibson Guitars

Those passing in and out of Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters throughout June found a collection of Gibson Les Paul guitars nestled in a sunlit corner of the lobby. The exhibit flows effortlessly with the building’s groovy aesthetic, and could easily be an installation at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It’s the brainchild of VH1 Save The Music Foundation, executed in collaboration with Art at Viacom and over 40 renowned visual artists and musicians.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of VH1 Save The Music, the artists worked in pairs to create 20 stunning, ornate instruments—enough to make any music fiend, art collector or investor swoon. And they will get their chance to do more than just admire them when VH1 Save The Music auctions off these guitars in October, partnering with Julien’s Auctions Los Angeles as part of their Idols & Icons: Rock and Roll sale. The proceeds are expected to fund musical instruments for at least 30 school band programs in the U.S.

Until then, these guitars are on tour—starting at Viacom headquarters and touring the New York-metro area until the fall, so fans and admirers can appreciate the majestic endeavor.

The Gibson installation at Viacom Headquarters. Photo by Bart Stadnicki.

I spoke with VH1 Save The Music Executive Director Henry Donahue to learn more about what promoted this massive, creative collaboration, and what he hopes to achieve with such campaigns.

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Viacom Wins Social Good Category at 9th Annual Shorty Awards With Innovative Get Schooled Campaign

“Want to get that paper? You better turn in that paper.”

 – DJ Khaled, Major Keys Campaign

Since 2009, Viacom and Get Schooled have worked to motivate low-income students to graduate from high school and succeed in college, using cutting-edge technology and pop culture to pique kids’ interest in academia. One of Get Schooled’s most recent endeavors, a PSA called Major Keys Campaign that stars music mogul, DJ Khaled, won the Social Good Category—beating out 48 other entries—at the prestigious Shorty Awards, which honor talented content creators and producers on social media.

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Unity Spans the Globe for Viacommunity Day’s 21st Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Lisa Di Venuta contributed reporting.

In an enormous show of support for local communities around the world, more than 4,000 Viacom employees threw themselves into the 21st annual Viacommunity Day last Friday. It was themed as a day of unity, bringing employees from every part of the company together at more than 150 projects sites across the United States and more than a dozen other nations, a collective effort that underscored Viacom’s unwavering dedication to putting our resources, skills, energies and collective will toward improving our communities.

“Viacommunity has a long legacy with our company,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, standing among a group of employees outside of a Boys & Girls Club in New Rochelle, 20 miles north of Times Square in the New York City suburbs. “I remember when I joined the company in 1997 in the early days of Viacommunity, and it’s always been a day, throughout different management teams, throughout different phases of the media business, where we would take a day and allow people to give back to their communities. This is all evidence that communities matter. That’s what Viacommunity is all about.”

 

Viacommunity Day 2017 Recap Video from Viacom on Vimeo.

Support for the effort transcended our employee ranks, reaching into the celebrity Twittersphere:

Events began early in the morning, spreading west from our outposts in Asia and Australia and following the sun across Europe and Africa and then jumping the Atlantic. The Viacommunity spirit rippled from the five boroughs of New York City and across the suburbs, west to Tennessee and finally California, where Paramount locked in the Viacommunity Day Cup for the second consecutive year.

Below is just a small sampling of the energy, enthusiasm, and effort that our volunteers injected into their communities over the course of a single day.

A Viacom employee gets psyched for Viacommunity Day 2017 in front of Viacom's Times Square headquarters.

A Viacom employee gets psyched for Viacommunity Day 2017 in front of 1515 Broadway.

CALIFORNIA – Paramount Repeats as Viacommunity Day Cup Champions

With the highest percentage of employees participating in Viacommunity Day out of any Viacom division, Paramount locked in the Viacommunity Day Cup for the second consecutive year. Employees had spent the past 12 months passing their prize around, Stanley Cup style, with different groups holding the trophy for a week at a time. Taking the cup again is a testament to how deeply entrenched the Viacommunity spirit is on the lot, where longstanding relationships with local schools and organizations fuse with individual efforts to create an atmosphere rich with giving.

The Fulfillment Fund

The commitment was evident on Paramount’s Hollywood lot on Friday morning, when a bus pulled in to pick up more than two dozen employee volunteers. It was already loaded with 25 students and four chaperones from Alexander Hamilton High School in west Los Angeles. They were headed six miles south, beneath the 10 freeway and to the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). On a separate bus, 25 Viacom employees were heading in the same direction from the company’s shiny new Hollywood building, stopping to pick up an additional 17 students from Helen Bernstein High School before rendezvousing at the university.

The Fulfillment Fund, an organization that focuses on orienting high-risk students toward college, was way ahead of both groups. They’d set up a unique tour: a campus-wide scavenger hunt for groups of students and volunteer mentors to navigate together. What’s the name of the campus bookstore? Which year was the arts building dedicated? Which years did USC football win the Rose Bowl? Four versions of the hunt helped to disperse the laughing, giddy students across the hot campus and avoid overcrowding at any one site.

Among the Viacom and Paramount volunteers were seven USC alumni and at least two graduates of Hamilton High School. Site captain Lori Nakama, a director of creative services for digital and television distribution in home media who was participating in her seventh Viacommunity Day, was among them.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” she said. “I love getting to work with people in the company that I don’t normally get to talk to. We’re so busy here that, a lot of times, I don’t leave my desk. So I don’t get to meet somebody who works in theatrical, or in finance, or in theatrical finance. So at Viacommunity Day, you not only are building a community within the community, but a community within the company.”

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Celebrating Our 2016 Viacommunity Award Winners

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Each year, the Viacommunity Award recognizes two Viacom employees who have gone above and beyond to make an impact in their communities with a $10,000 donation to the organizations of their choice. With more than a hundred submissions from colleagues across the company, it was truly a difficult decision to pick just two winners.

This year, Viacom is proud to present the coveted Viacommunity Awards to Kevin Chalk and Hasani Henderson for their incredible efforts with two amazing organizations, Back on My Feet and #TheTakeBack.

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Get Schooled Scores a Spot on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in Gaming List

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The lighting-thumbed gamer diehards will nod in knowing agreement as they glance at Fast Company’s roll call of the 10 most innovative companies in gaming – streamer Twitch, gamemakers 2K and Activision Blizzard, founding father of modern gaming Nintendo. But the name at number nine might teach even the most seasoned gamer something brand new: Get Schooled, the non-profit organization whose primary mission is inspiring students to finish high school and succeed in college.

How exactly does an organization founded via a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom crash a who’s who of modern gaming giants? By adopting the fearless attitude and experimental dynamic of a Silicon Valley start-up driven to solve an complex problem.

“Get Schooled has a track record of success in part because we have adopted the principles of a high performing tech start up: we value partnerships, use data to continuously improve and have learned how to fail fast,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of Get Schooled.

Those improvements have hinged upon a bold and vast adventure into gamification, a realm that many high school students know well and require no primer to engage with. The pivot began just two years after Get Schooled launched in 2010, transforming www.getschooled.com into an immersive gamified universe, where competition, point scoring and rules have engaged millions of young people, who can cash out their points for stuff like autographed gear from NBA and NFL stars, calculators or backpacks in a rewards store sponsored by the organization.

Students can also earn scholarships, or celebrity appearances by the likes of DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, James Harden, KeKe Palmer, Nick Cannon, Ne-Yo, Chance the Rapper and Ludacris. Check out Kendrick Lamar’s visit to Bethel High School in Alaska, a former “drop-out factory” that earned the visit by winning one of Get Schooled’s national points-based competitions:

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Paramount’s Kevin Chalk Is Getting L.A.’s Homeless Population Back on Their Feet

At 4:40 a.m., Paramount employee Kevin Chalk’s alarm goes off. He puts on running clothes and sneakers and is out the door in 30 minutes. He’s on his way to Los Angeles’s infamous skid row.

It’s certainly an odd choice for a morning jog. But Chalk is a volunteer at Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that combats homelessness through the power of running, community support and essential employment and housing resources.

Chalk’s morning itinerary is precise and consistent, much like the training regimen of a seasoned athlete. By 5:25, Chalk is driving past makeshift tents in the impoverished neighborhood. Skid row has the highest concentration of homelessness in the nation—in just one square mile, over 2,000 people live in squalor.

Chalk steps out of his car and is struck by the putrid odor of synthetic marijuana, or spice. Spice is a cheap (albeit potentially lethal) high, making homeless residents an easy target for dealers. The toxic stench grows stronger as Chalk walks towards the Mission. He weaves in between tarps draped over fences, derelict buildings and throngs of families and neighbors huddled beneath threadbare blankets.

Rap music blasts from set of speakers in one tent, while 70s soul blares from a car radio. It’s barely dawn. There are men, women, and children of all ages mingling in the streets amidst rats and tumbleweeds of trash.

Skid Row

Skid Row in Los Angeles. Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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16 out of ’16: The Viacom Blog’s Most Popular Posts From Last Year, According to You Guys

What makes our readers click?

According to our Google Analytics stats, it’s innovative marketing, brilliant shows and movies, political coverage, LGBT initiatives, A$AP Rocky, tacos, and Mediterranean music festivals.

2016 was monumental for Viacom, along with the rest of the world. We witnessed one of the most tectonic presidential elections in history. The way we consume media continued to evolve with advanced streaming services and virtual reality engagement. We lost beloved celebrities such as Prince and David Bowie, and sadly, many more. But we saw others rise to stardom, like Rita Ora, who now hosts VH1’s America’s Next Top Model, and Bebe Rhexa, who hosted the 2016 EMAs.

This list is by no means comprehensive of what Viacom accomplished in 2016—that would require far more than 16 posts to cover. But we’ve gathered those that made the largest impact, according what you, our readers, have clicked on the most.

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Al Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel Follows Oscar-Winning Doc at Critical Moment for Combating Climate Change

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

An Inconvenient Truth came spinning out of Al Gore’s Powerpoint deck 11 years ago this spring, resuscitating a national conversation on global warming on its way to winning a pair of Oscars and Best Documentary honors from more than a dozen film critics associations.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim and distributed by Paramount, the film brought in $50 million and became a vital part of the worldwide climate change dialogue. In a powerful statement of Gore’s total commitment to a cause he has been devoted to since initiating the first congressional hearing on global warming in the early 1980s, he and his wife donated all profits to initiatives that would help educate more people about the dangers and realities of climate change.

A decade later, the issues Gore articulated in the film are as urgent as ever, as newly inaugurated President Donald Trump has suggested he may “cancel” the extraordinary Paris Agreement between 195 countries that is intended to slow and ultimately halt global warming. The timing, then, is optimal for An Inconvenient Sequel, Gore’s follow-up that debuted to a standing ovation last week at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, which Paramount will release in theaters on July 28, is a wide-ranging examination of the global climate turmoil that threatens to massively disrupt life on Earth. In one compelling scene, Gore outlines how one of his most controversial 2006 predictions – that floodwaters could inundate the September 11 Memorial in lower Manhattan – has already happened:

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