Shelley Ross, the ex-boss of Chris Cuomo who accused him of sexual harassment, says the CNN anchor needs ‘a big education in this culture war’

Chris Cuomo
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

  • Shelley Ross, Chris Cuomo’s former boss who accused him of sexual harassment, says the CNN anchor needs “a big education in this culture war” involving harassment in the workplace.
  • She told Insider she believes Cuomo has not learned about sexual harassment, citing his response to her op-ed.
  • She suggested in her New York Times op-ed that Cuomo “journalistically repent” for his actions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shelley Ross, Chris Cuomo’s former boss at ABC who has accused him of sexually harassing her, says the CNN anchor needs “a big education in this culture war” involving harassment in the workplace.

Ross spoke to Insider on Friday after writing an op-ed in the New York Times in which she said Cuomo grabbed her buttocks at a colleague’s going away party in 2005.

She said she believes Cuomo has not enlightened himself about sexual harassment, citing his response to her op-ed.

Cuomo had told the Times in a response to her essay: “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.”

Ross told Insider that she didn’t see what Cuomo did as an “interaction,” and instead said she was “groped.”

“I followed Chris Cuomo as a CNN anchor. I think he’s grown in the anchor chair over 15 or 16 years,” she said. “And I really didn’t know much about his personal life, but I would like to think that in 15 years that somebody can be enlightened. Clearly, by his response, I see he hasn’t done any [work]. He needs a big education in this culture war.”

In her New York Times op-ed, Ross suggested Cuomo “journalistically repent,” during which he could study sexism, harassment, and bias in the workplace and report on it on air.

“Wouldn’t you watch it? To watch was as he learns and watch his journey of what we’re all talking about and what we’re all going through that he’s blind to?” she asked.

Cuomo did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Shelley Ross, Chris Cuomo’s former boss who alleges he sexually harassed her 16 years ago, says the CNN anchor is ‘no more enlightened today than he was then’

Shelley Ross and Chris Cuomo
Shelley Ross and Chris Cuomo.

  • Shelley Ross, a former ABC producer, alleged Friday that Chris Cuomo sexually harassed her in 2005.
  • She told Insider Cuomo was “no more enlightened today than he was then.”
  • Ross said she believed Cuomo hadn’t done the work to better himself since the incident.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shelley Ross, Chris Cuomo’s former boss at ABC who accused him of sexually harassing her, said the CNN anchor was “no more enlightened today than he was” when the harassment took place.

She spoke with Insider about Cuomo after writing an op-ed in The New York Times in which she said Cuomo grabbed her butt in 2005 at a going-away party for a colleague at a Manhattan bar.

Ross, who was the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special at the time and previously worked as Cuomo’s executive producer at “Primetime Live,” told Insider she believed Cuomo hadn’t done the work to better himself since the incident.

“I was hoping that in 15, 16 years that he had changed, but he’s no more enlightened today than he was then, as demonstrated by his response,” she said.

In response to Ross’ op-ed Cuomo told The Times: “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.”

Cuomo did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Ross said his response “demonstrated” that he had not grown from the incident.

“I don’t acknowledge that there’s anything that was ‘our interaction.’ I was not a participant,” she said. “I was groped. And so to say that I acknowledge interaction, no. That shows a lack of enlightenment.”

Cuomo sent Ross an email after the 2005 incident, in which he said he was “ashamed,” and apologized to her “very good and noble husband” before apologizing to her “for even putting you in such a position,” Ross said.

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IAC in talks to acquire Meredith in $2.5 billion deal that would boost its holdings after Match Group spinoff

barry diller
IAC Chairman Barry Diller.

Digital media giant IAC is in advanced talks to acquire print publishing giant Meredith Corp. in a potential deal that could exceed $2.5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

IAC, chaired by Barry Diller, has pulled ahead of private equity firm The Najafi Companies and other potential buyers and could reach an agreement with Meredith in the next few days, according to The Journal.

IAC and Meredith did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

IAC, which owns brands including Investopedia and Brides, downsized its portfolio when it spun off Match Group, the parent company of Tinder, OkCupid, and a majority of the major US dating platforms.

Acquiring Meredith, which publishes dozens of magazines including People, Better Homes & Gardens, and InStyle, would significantly boost its holdings – and mark a major pivot for Meredith, which bought Time for $1.8 billion in 2018.

Meredith titles acquired via the deal would become part of IAC’s publishing division, Dotdash, according to The Journal.

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The FEC unanimously rejected Matt Gaetz’s complaint accusing Twitter of interfering in the 2020 election by using fact-check labels on Trump’s tweets

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida at a markup hearing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida at a markup hearing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.

  • The FEC unanimously rejected Rep. Matt Gaetz’s complaint alleging “domestic election interference” by Twitter.
  • Gaetz had argued that Twitter was making an illegal contribution to Trump’s opponents by fact-checking.
  • The commission ultimately agreed that Twitter had legitimate commercial reasons to fact-check tweets.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Election Commission unanimously rejected a complaint by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, which alleged that Twitter was interfering in the 2020 presidential election by affixing “fact-check” labels to some of former President Trump’s tweets.

In May of 2020, after Twitter first applied fact-check labels to factually inaccurate tweets about mail-in voting by the president, Gaetz announced on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show that he was filing a complaint with the commission.

“Twitter is interfering with an election. If we just wait around, big tech will steal this election from Donald Trump and the American people,” Gaetz said in a press release at the time.

This is Gaetz’s second Twitter complaint to get rejected by the commission– last week, Insider reported that the commission rejected a Gaetz complaint over an alleged 2018 “shadow ban” by the platform.

In his initial complaint in May 2020, Gaetz alleged that Twitter had become a “shadow contributor to the Democratic National Committee” and making a prohibited contribution to Trump’s political opponents.

“By opining on the content of the President’s tweets, Twitter is injecting its own editorial opinions in an attempt to lower the credibility of the President,” alleged Gaetz in the complaint. “By failing to adhere to the true nature of a [Section 230] protected platform, Twitter then degrades itself and becomes the ‘wet-market of ideas.'”

Election fraud is criminal and its penalties should be determined by the courts, not by @jack,” continued the complaint, referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey by his handle. “Twitter users may erroneously perceive a candidate with a fact-check linked to his tweets as a scarlet letter, which is wholly unjust and in violation of FEC law.”

As in a previous complaint, Gaetz also argued that Twitter is a debate platform subject to FEC regulation, a notion that the commission refuted in both cases.

Twitter responded to Gaetz’s complaint less than two months later, pointing to its “Civic Integrity Policy” while indicating that the company had implemented new policies to combat misinformation in part due to advertisers’ concerns.

“Advertisers have asked companies to do more in this area or risk losing advertising revenue,” a representative for Twitter wrote. “Just last month, Unilever cited misinformation and related concerns in support of its decision to halt advertising on Twitter and other platforms.”

The company also pointed to its fact-check labeling of a tweet by actress Debra Messing – who tweeted a photoshopped image of Adolf Hitler holding a Bible alongside a similar photo of Trump after protesters were removed by force from Lafayette Square in front of the White House – as an example of the platform’s nonpartisan approach.

A December legal analysis by the commission found that Twitter’s conduct failed to meet the criteria of being an illegal contribution or expenditure, in part because the fact checks themselves did not include references to Trump’s candidacy.

“[Gaetz’s] argument is not borne out by the content of Twitter’s post, however, which does not reference his status as a candidate, the upcoming election, or exhort readers to vote in a certain way,” reads the analysis. “Instead, it describes Trump’s tweets as “unsubstantiated” and references various news sources that cast doubt on his claims.”

The FEC unanimously found in August 2021 that Twitter did not violate election laws and then overwhelmingly voted to close the file.

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Hollywood workers: Tell us what you earn and how you budget as Insider reports on workplace culture in the entertainment industry

movie set
  • Insider is assembling salary diaries that reveal the challenges Hollywood workers face in making ends meet.
  • Income inequality and workplace fairness are concerns in entertainment, and we want to hear from you.
  • Respondents will be kept anonymous, due to the sensitive nature of the topic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The entertainment industry has a reputation for glitz and glamour, but the star-studded movies that make it to the big screen are built on the backs of thousands of crew members, support staffers, pre- and post-production workers who toil away – often for a fraction of the paycheck of the A-listers headlining a project.

And for every TV showrunner or movie star, there are legions of actors and writers and directors who grind for years in the hopes of getting their big break.

Movements like #PayUpHollywood and #IALivingWage have shone a light on the community of assistants and IATSE members, respectively, who often live paycheck to paycheck in expensive cities like Los Angeles and New York. And as Insider has reported, the COVID-19 pandemic of the past 18 months is leaving many workers wondering if they are a “lost generation” of future showrunners and execs whose careers may remain stalled indefinitely.

The pandemic has additionally compounded the usual work stresses for young Gen Z and millennial staffers in Hollywood, prompting some to reevaluate the way they view work in relation to their mental health.

In examining workplace issues and income inequality in Hollywood, Insider’s Los Angeles bureau wants to hear from you, whether you’re a writer, producer, actor, director, assistant, agent, composer, gaffer, makeup artist, studio exec, or an assistant or apprentice to any of the above.

We’re putting together salary diaries that reveal the challenges Hollywood dreamers and strivers face in making ends meet, including the money hacks and occasional perks that help along the way. For a look at what an Insider salary diary highlights, check out our DC bureau’s coverage of congressional staffer pay on Capitol Hill.

What we’re looking for: A salary diary that breaks down your income and monthly expenses, in addition to your thoughts on pay satisfaction and your career trajectory in the entertainment industry so far.

Email us at with the subject line “Hollywood Salary Diary” if you’re interested in participating. We’ll contact you from there to send you a template so you can start tracking your salary and budget. We’d like to learn more about how much you pay for rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, professional clothes, student loans, work events, and more.

Due to the sensitivity of the matter, Insider will not disclose your name, employer, or other identifying information in our coverage. We will ask for documentation of certain items during the fact-checking process, but will never publish or disclose those documents without your explicit permission.

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Netflix didn’t think Roku could succeed. Now the streaming underdog is hoping its original content can take on Disney, HBO and more.

roku founder ceo anthony wood
Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood in 2014.

  • Roku hasn’t always owned content that it could market to viewers.
  • But that all changed when it bought failed streaming project Quibi this year in a major pivot
  • Now Roku is competing against Netflix, which spun it off back in 2008.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Roku once had a huge appeal for customers: it didn’t own its own content to aggressively push on viewers.

The so-called content-agnostic streaming player had become a household middleman, helping people watch Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and others on their TV with its easy-to-use hardware.

But in 2021, that all changed.

In January, Roku bought Quibi, the failed pandemic-era streaming project that wanted to capitalize on people’s short attention spans. And in May, Roku started airing Quibi’s programs as Roku Originals for free on its ad-supported Roku Channel.

The move into airing original content is a stark departure from its long-time business model, merely helping streamers showcase their content. It has a long way to go but is now among the ranks of power players like Netflix, HBO Max, and others.

It turns out the company, now worth more than $40 billion, isn’t the discarded Netflix spin-off it once was.

Netflix didn’t think Roku would succeed.

reed hastings netflix
Netflix founder Reed Hastings.

Roku’s first streaming box rolled out in 2008 after being developed while its founder was simultaneously working at Netflix and at Roku.

Reed Hastings and Roku founder Anthony Wood initially worked together to produce a streaming box for Netflix that would allow viewers to stream content from anywhere, including from Apple TV and Xbox, CNBC reported. But those companies were less than thrilled by the idea of people watching Netflix on their platforms, and Netflix opted to divest the division – named Project Griffin – to Roku, and Wood followed.

“There was Xbox and PlayStation and Samsung and Apple TV,” Hastings told CNBC in June. “Frankly, we didn’t think Roku had much of a chance.”

Netflix sold its remaining Roku stock in 2009 at a $4.3 million loss, the outlet reported. If it hadn’t, that stake would be valued at about $7 billion today.

Roku has earned a name for itself in decentralized streaming devices and software. Roku’s own line of TVs holds a 38% market share in the US, according to data from the NPD Group. It also makes other accessories like soundbars.

It’s consumed the largest bite out of the connected TV market in the US, beating out Apple and Amazon, and ended 2020 with 51.2 million active accounts- in other words, 51% of US homes had a Roku streaming device as of last year.

Roku did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Roku’s playing with the big dogs now, including Netflix

Roku Originals

The Roku Channel used to only air lackluster content from other media companies. Its Quibi acquisition represents the first bevy of original programming that Roku will own and stream on its platform.

That includes “Die Hart” starring comedian Kevin Hart, “FreeRayshawn,” “Reno 911!,” and Chrissy Tiegan’s “Chrissy’s Court.”

And it turns out that yes, people are watching. The streaming giant said in June that the top 10 most-watched programs on its Roku Channel between May 20 and June 3 were Roku Originals.

It also expects to air 45 Roku Originals by the end of the year, with the $1 billion that it raised in March could go toward original content production, a former board member told CNBC.

Indeed, earlier this month, the company said it’s writing and producing “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” a canceled NBC program, into a movie in what is another effort to wade into original programming.

However, Hastings told the outlet that Netflix doesn’t see Roku as a competitor. “They’re not a big threat to us,” he said.

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‘Shang-Chi’ will be available to stream on Disney+ November 12

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will be available to stream on Disney+ on November 12.
  • It’s part of “Disney+ Day,” which marks the two-year anniversary of the service launching.
  • “Shang-Chi” has been a box-office hit after debuting exclusively in theaters with a 45-day window.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will be available to stream on Disney+ on November 12, more than two months after its theatrical release. It will make its streaming premiere as part of “Disney+ Day,” marking the two-year anniversary of when the service launched.

There won’t be a video-on-demand release between the 45-day window and its streaming premiere. The movie will be available on VOD platforms the same day it hits Disney+.

The hit Marvel Cinematic Universe movie debuted September 3 exclusively to theaters with a 45-day window. Though Disney said it would be exclusive to theaters for at least 45 days, it hadn’t specified when it would premiere on Disney+.

“Shang-Chi” has been a box-office hit with $177 million in the US and $305 million worldwide. That doesn’t include the biggest theatrical market, China, where it has yet to be approved for release by the government.

It will likely surpass “Black Widow’s” domestic gross of $183 million this week, which would make it the highest-grossing movie in the US so far this year.

The movie’s success prompted Disney to announce that its remaining 2021 movies would be released exclusively to theaters with 45-day or 30-day windows.

“Black Widow” was released simultaneously to theaters and Disney+ for an additional $30 fee, which theater owners said hindered the movie’s box office.

“We believe that simultaneous release cannibalizes ticket sales in favor of streaming-service viewership, or sales if it’s a premium offering,” John Fithian, the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told Insider in a recent interview.

He added: “The bigger problem, though, is piracy … When a movie is released simultaneously to a streaming service, a pristine copy of that movie is made available day one that it’s in cinemas.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Netflix is the most essential streaming service, but HBO Max leads in customer satisfaction

the queen's gambit
“The Queen’s Gambit.”

  • A new survey showed that respondents were most satisfied with HBO Max among streaming services.
  • But Netflix was the service most respondents said they would keep if they could have only one.
  • Library content was more important to respondents than originals, but that could change.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The streaming space has rapidly expanded in the last two years with new players like Disney+ and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max joining established giants like Netflix and Prime Video.

But there’s a limit to how many services people will subscribe to. And after a pandemic surge for streaming, a real concern for platforms is subscribers canceling, otherwise known as “churn.”

Consumers subscribe to an average of four services, according to a survey published last week by the entertainment-insights company Whip Media. The company surveyed 3,960 users of its television- and -movie-tracking app TV Time in the US from June 9 to June 13, and weighed the results to reflect the US population by gender and age.

32% of respondents said that they canceled a streaming service in the last year.

Given that, which service did they think was most essential?

41% of respondents said that they would keep Netflix if they could only keep one streaming service.

It was followed by:

  • Hulu – 21%
  • HBO Max – 13%
  • Disney+ – 9%
  • Prime Video – 6%
  • Paramount+ – 2%
  • Discovery+ – 1%
  • Peacock – 1%
  • Apple TV+ – 1%
  • Other – 3%
  • None of the above – 3%

Respondents were most satisfied with HBO Max

While Netflix ranked highest as the service that most respondents said they would keep, HBO Max led in satisfaction.

51% of respondents were “very satisfied” with Max while 46% were “very satisfied” with Netflix. The latter was neck-and-neck with Hulu and Disney+ in this regard.

Here’s how all the streamers fared in terms of whether respondents were “very satisfied” with it:

  • HBO Max – 51%
  • Netflix – 46%
  • Disney+ – 46%
  • Hulu – 45%
  • Discovery+ – 35%
  • Prime Video – 28%
  • Paramount+ – 28%
  • Apple TV+ – 21%
  • Peacock – 19%

Max launched in May 2020 to a rocky start, primarily because it wasn’t on Roku or Amazon platforms at launch, the two most popular streaming distributors.

But it eventually struck deals with both Roku and Amazon, though HBO was removed from Amazon’s Channels feature last week, in which people can subscribe to a service through Amazon (Max is still a standalone app on Amazon Fire devices). Max is now offering a 50% discount of its ad-free plan to lure the 5 million customers HBO lost.

Max has made great strides in gaining subscribers since launch, though, boosted by new Warner Bros. movies debuting simultaneously on the service and in theaters this year. During its Q2 earnings in July, parent company AT&T said the service gained 2.8 million subscribers in the quarter, well ahead of forecasts.

Services like ViacomCBS’ Paramount+, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, and Apple TV+ have struggled to make an impression, and ranked the lowest when it came to satisfaction (though Apple’s breakout hit “Ted Lasso” just picked up a few Emmys).

Prime Video also ranked low in satisfaction, though the number of respondents who said that they subscribed to it was high at 76%, second only to Netflix with 88%. That suggests many may subscribe to Prime Video since it’s offered with an Amazon Prime subscription, while not being necessarily satisfied with it.

whip media streaming survey satisfaction

Library content was more important to subscribers than originals, but that could change

The survey found that 61% of respondents saw library content (licensed shows and movies) as “very important” and 31% found it “important,” for a combined 92% of respondents.

When it came to original content, 42% of respondents said that originals were “very important” and 36% said they were “important” for a combined 78%.

With the surge in media companies entering the streaming space in recent years, original content is essential to differentiating their platforms. But library content is still attractive to subscribers. For instance, “The Office” was one of Netflix’s most popular series before it moved to Peacock.

Original content is gaining a bit, though. Whip Media noted that in last year’s spring survey, the combined “very important” and “important” response was 71% and in fall 2019 it was 68%.

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Netflix dominated the Emmys, tying the record for most wins with 44 and beating HBO

Emma Corrin the Crown
Emma Corrin in “The Crown.”

  • Netflix won the most Emmys for the first time on Sunday with a record-tying 44 wins.
  • HBO, its biggest competitor, trailed with 19 wins, including four for HBO Max.
  • Netflix and HBO have been in a tug-of-war in recent years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Eight years after “House of Cards” earned Netflix its first Emmy nominations, the streaming company came out on top in more ways than one on Sunday during the 73rd Emmys.

Netflix’s “The Crown” won for best drama and “The Queen’s Gambit” won best limited series. Prior to this year, Netflix had been nominated for best drama, comedy, and limited series 30 times and never won (Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” was crowned best comedy this year).

The streaming giant also won the most Emmys of the night for the first time with 44 trophies (including the Creative Arts Emmys), tying a 47-year record with CBS.

Netflix’s biggest competitor at the Emmys, HBO, trailed this year with 15 total wins. The HBO Max streaming service nabbed four wins. HBO and Max led the nominations by a razor-thin margin with a combined 130 (94 for HBO and 36 for Max), while Netflix had 129 nominations.

It’s a major role reversal from last year when HBO won 30 Emmys, buoyed by drama and limited series wins for “Succession” and “Watchmen,” while Netflix won 21.

Netflix has developed a recent reputation among some in Hollywood for valuing quantity over quality. With its resounding Emmys dominance, Netflix can try to dampen those criticisms.

But still, Sunday gave some reminders of the change that has happened within Netflix in recent months. “The Crown” winners, including creator Peter Morgan and director Jessica Hobbs, thanked former Netflix executives Cindy Holland (former head of original content) and Nina Wolarsky (former VP of original drama series), who helped shepherd “The Crown” to success. The two exited the company last year amid a shakeup that saw Bela Bajaria elevated to global TV chief.

As for HBO, it’s known for its small collection of prestige shows. But when AT&T bought Time Warner, forming WarnerMedia in 2018, it quickly vowed to launch its own streaming service and increase HBO’s output of content.

HBO showed resilience on the quality front with big acting wins for its hit limited series “Mare of Easttown” and HBO Max’s “Hacks,” and “Last Week Tonight” once again won best variety talk series. But this is the first time since 2014 that the premium cable network hasn’t won any of the top three prizes of the night.

HBO and Max programming chief Casey Bloys, who was thanked multiple times on Sunday during acceptance speeches, told press in June that 2022 will see the “highest level of scripted programming we ever had,” but urged that HBO’s mission “hasn’t changed.”

“Despite everything going on around HBO, the creative team … we’re still doing our thing,” he said.

But HBO is also facing another regime change, as AT&T is set to spin off WarnerMedia to Discovery in a deal likely to be approved next year. The new company will be called Warner Bros. Discovery.

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After fleeing the Taliban takeover, the founder of Afghanistan’s first all-female news channel vows to continue its work

ZAN TV staff work on screens
The ZAN TV editing room in Kabul, Afghanistan.

  • ZAN TV was founded as a symbol of defiance in Afghanistan, where women’s freedoms were long curbed.
  • But it stopped broadcasting after the Taliban retook control of the country in mid-August.
  • Insider spoke to its founder and another reporter, who fear for their colleagues but vow to go on.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Hamid Samar founded Afghanistan’s first all-female news channel in 2017, after his mother said there should be a TV station run by and for women.

He hoped ZAN TV would empower women, and the staff saw it as a symbol of a changing Afghanistan.

It rose to have a peak of 72 staff, training female journalists while covering the news and women’s issues. Men worked there too, but all the presenters and reporters were female.

When the Taliban seized the country in mid-August, the station paused its work, and Samar fled the country, fearing the group’s long and violent opposition to women in public life. At that point, ZAN TV had about 30 staff, some of whom already based outside the country.

The Taliban have said they would protect women, but the last time they were in power they severely limited women’s rights and movements, and punished rule breakers with beatings and death.

After the Taliban takeover, ZAN TV stopped broadcasting on satellite, though some staff in Kabul and outside Afghanistan continued to post infrequently on social media, Samar said.

Samar worries for his colleagues still in Afghanistan, but is determined to help them continue their work.

‘Nobody thought that there would be TV stations just run by women’

Insider also spoke to Fariah Saidi, who has worked for ZAN TV from Canada since 2017, directing the channel’s programs and presenting political shows.

She said she was inspired to join ZAN TV because “the media is always a male-dominant space, not just in Afghanistan but around the world.”

ZAN TV, by contrast, is “for women and it’s run by women, and the aim is to empower Afghan women around the world,” she said.

Fariah Saidi
Fariah Saidi.

That empowerment was to be achieved in two ways: Covering women’s issues, but also showing women in roles that people were not used to seeing.

She said she believed the power of TV could change people’s mindsets and “normalize a lot of things about women that are taboo in certain societies.”

ZAN TV was launched 16 years after the Taliban were last toppled from power – the group controlled Afghanistan from the late 1990s to 2001. Saidi said the launch showed how much the country has changed.

“Nobody thought that there would be TV stations just run by women,” Saidi said. “It was a different idea … It was a big thing for society.”

taliban fighters in kabul
Taliban fighters stand outside the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul on August 15, 2021, after the militants encircled and took over the city.

She said she could see how ZAN TV was managing to help women’s empowerment – at least until the Taliban seized power of the country.

Fleeing Afghanistan with just the clothes on his back

Samar told Insider that the Taliban’s rapid takeover prompted him to flee in a hurry.

He said he left Kabul days after the Taliban seized the city – he doesn’t remember the exact day – with his family on a US military jet. He was brought to Qatar, then Germany, and eventually Wisconsin.

“I was just able to take the shoes and clothes that I was wearing,” he said.

He said he deleted everything from his phone in case he was searched by the Taliban during the escape.

He said he was grateful to be in the US, but sad to leave: “I feel really good to be here. Of course, if was not easy to leave your country.” But the most important thing, he said, was “the safety of my kids and family.”

Hamid Samar sitting at a table, with the flag of Afghanistan in the foreground.
Hamid Samar.

But Samar knows some of his staff – from the female journalists to the men who worked behind the cameras – are still there, and are at risk.

‘In a blink of an eye, their world was upside down’

Saidi said she is still talking to ZAN TV’s female reporters who are stuck in Afghanistan. Her parents are both from Afghanistan, but she was raised outside the country.

“Anyone that I talk to has a sense of heartbreaking loss,” she said. She said that one colleague described being “physically safe, but mentally not safe.”

Saidi said: “My heart goes out to all the girls who worked there. I’ve known this for a very long time the troubles that they went through to be able to get a job, to be able to work on all of this – and in a blink of an eye, their world was upside down. So, for most of them, their life is in danger and their family’s life in danger.”

The ZAN TV logo on a screen
The Zan TV editing room in Kabul, Afghanistan, in May 2017.

Of Samar’s escape, Saidi said: “His life was in danger. His family, his kids’ lives were in danger.”

She said ZAN TV’s leadership was still trying to figure out how employees on the ground can be protected: “Everyone is like, at the very moment, let’s make sure everyone is safe and they’re surviving and they’re alive.”

Samar said that around ten of his local staff had left Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, but around 20 others were still there.

He said some stayed because they did not want to leave their families behind, and that ZAN TV was “trying our best to keep them safe.”

Taliban fighters with guns outside Kabul airport
Taliban Badri special force fighters arrive at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US pulled all its troops out of the country.

Saidi said many the employees “feel guilty” for putting their families in danger.

“But I let them know it’s not their fault. Once we make sure they’re safe, we will continue our fight for Afghan women.”

Vows to make ZAN TV stronger than before

Samar said he wants ZAN TV to continue, and even grow, despite the Taliban.

“Zan TV is not a project that should just end. People who worked on it want to continue ZAN TV more strongly than what we were in the past,” he said.

He hopes the channel’s female staff in Afghanistan can keep working on it: “Of course they want to continue their work.”

Saidi said she wasn’t sure what would happen next, but hopes the work continues: “For me, I think it’s a completely different story compared to the girls who were born and raised in Afghanistan.”

She said that, compared to them, “I don’t have a lot to lose. Physically, I am not in a place where most of these girls are. But when I think, do I want to give up? I don’t want to give up.”

She said she won’t stop her work, whether ZAN TV can continue or not: “I personally will not give up my work for women … if it’s on TV or any other platform. My work for women in Afghanistan will continue.”

“Back in 1996, the first time the Taliban took over, I was only one year old. I wasn’t even living in Afghanistan at that time. I was obviously not able to do anything at that time.”

“Now it’s like history repeating itself. But I’m 25 now … And if there’s something I can do, I will continue with that.”

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