News

NAACP TARGETS CABLE

8/15/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

New York -- On the heels of its well-publicized, critical
look at diversity in broadcast-television programming, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People has turned its focus toward the cable industry, and it is
now surveying MSOs and networks on their minority hiring practices.

NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume said the civil-rights
organization is preparing an in-depth "report card" targeting cable's
hiring and advancement of minorities in top executive positions within networks, MSOs and
associated companies.

Cable companies have either received or are about to
receive the organization's questionnaire, which asks about their minority hiring
practices, the number of minorities in executive positions and other relevant information
regarding their handling of minority issues and concerns.

Mfume said the organization hopes to begin tallying the
information by November, and it expects to release its findings sometime in January.

"Our look at cable is from an economic-reciprocity
perspective," he said. "We want to know if economic opportunities exist [for
minorities]."

Mfume, who attended Black Entertainment Television's
announcement of a new African-American-based Internet site here last week, said he
wasn't sure how cable would fare in the survey.

But on the surface, he said, the industry didn't seem
to offer much greater opportunities for minorities than the broadcast networks. He added
that the industry's performance may be skewed further by the significant number of
minorities employed by BET.

"We want to find out what's happening and not
happening with basic hiring, with promotions, with the procurement practices of cable
companies, with the investment-banking practices and philanthropic activities," Mfume
said.

"We want to know what's not happening with their
corporate structure, their board of directors … are there people of color in
significant decision-making roles, and if there aren't, why not?" he added.

If the cable industry is found to be negligent in its
diversification, Mfume did not rule out the potential organization of cable-company
boycotts.

Several MSOs confirmed that they have received the survey,
including AT&T Broadband & Internet Services.

AT&T Broadband president Leo J. Hindery Jr. believes
the industry's diversity record is excellent, and that it will be reflected in the
report.

"We're thrilled to work with the NAACP, and
I'm proud of the exceptional job that AT&T and the industry have done on the
issue of diversity," Hindery said. "[The industry] has worked very hard on this,
and the NAACP will see that we're far, far ahead of other industries."

Meanwhile, the cable industry has already begun its own
in-house efforts to reach out to minorities in an effort to provide more diversity within
its ranks.

Earlier this year, the National Cable Television
Association, the National Association of Minorities in Communications, the Walter Kaitz
Foundation, Women in Cable and Telecommunications and Cable Positive announced an
initiative to work together with MSOs to promote diversity within the ranks of
cable's management, including developing a job bank, as well as other
employment-related projects.

The NAACP cable project is part of the organization's
"Television & Film Diversity Initiative," which serves as a watchdog to
report on and monitor diversity throughout the television and film industry.

Through the initiative, the NAACP made headlines last month
with its scathing report on minority representation within the broadcasting industry. The
organization criticized the television industry for not having any minorities in starring
roles among the four major broadcast networks' 26 new shows slated for the 1999-2000
television season.

The criticism forced some networks to revise several shows
and add minorities to their casts.

While the organization's look at the cable industry
goes deeper than just on-air minority representation, Mfume said cable networks'
programming lineups would not be excluded.

"We needed to address the issue of the whitewashing of
the 26 new [broadcast] shows immediately, but we're not looking [at cable-network
programming] as closely as we are with the networks," he said. "But we're
going to be looking at the [cable] networks within those same areas."

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