Cable Backs Diversity With New Initiative


New York -- Backed by a slew of industry organizations and
top MSOs, the National Cable Television Association last week renewed its efforts to drive
diversity in the work force with its new Telecommunications Diversity Network.

In an effort to ensure that minority workers remain and
prosper in the industry, TDN created a job bank on the Internet at

Groups such as the National Association of Minorities in
Communications will promote the new Web site to their members. And cable operators,
programmers and other NCTA members are encouraged to lend support to the site by posting
jobs on it.

NAMIC president Joe Lawson said his organization had talked
with AT&T Broadband & Internet Services CEO Leo J. Hindery Jr. and then-NCTA
president Decker Anstrom about starting such an industrywide initiative, and he praised
the leadership's commitment to diversity.

"We can do more together than we can do
individually," Hindery said, adding that operators throughout the industry have
committed to TDN.

"The greatest impediment to diversity is simply
denial," Hindery said. "We have a diversity problem in this country and in this
industry. We cannot deny it. We have to embrace the task."

Including minorities at all levels of the work force will
help to drive new business for MSOs and other media companies, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told
attendees of a NAMIC conference here last Tuesday. Jackson called not only for more
diversity in the workplace, but also for minority ownership of cable and broadcast

Jackson called the recently announced Viacom Inc.-CBS Corp.
deal into question, saying he and other members of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition will meet
with leaders from both companies to express their concerns.

He also said he would ask Federal Communications Commission
chairman William Kennard to keep a close eye on industry consolidation to make sure
minorities are not further excluded from media ownership.

"The gap between Wall Street and Harlem isn't a
digital divide," Jackson said. "It's a capital gap."

Kennard made two public appearances at cable functions here
last week -- at the NAMIC Urban Markets conference and the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner
-- during which he urged cable companies to make it a priority to help minority
representatives take leadership roles.

At the NAMIC conference, Kennard cited the organization's
recent cable-employment survey, which found that minorities accounted for just 7 percent
of senior vice president or higher jobs at MSOs.

He added that cable CEOs need to give a higher priority to
mentoring programs, which help minority employees to take leadership roles, and that they
should support a return of tax incentives for minority business ownership.

Kennard started by saying that he owed his job partly to
groups that lobbied for an African-American FCC chairman. He ended by saying, "I want
people to say he made a difference because he was the first, and because of that, he won't
be the last."

Also during the NAMIC conference, Hindery said another
evaluation of cable's hiring practices being conducted by the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People would probably grade the industry "B" or
"B-minus" on results, but "A for progress," especially over the past

"I'm not displeased with this," he added. "I
think we have some history to overcome."

BET Networks chief operating officer Debra Lee thought the
NAACP would give cable lower marks for its results in getting women and minority members
into ownership and top management.

"There's just so much more to be done in this
industry," Lee said. "I think we can't afford to pat ourselves on the back so

Through the help of the newly formed TDN, NAMIC plans to
increase its mentorship pairings from 25 to 50. At an NCTA press conference here last
week, NCTA president Robert Sachs volunteered to be the first new mentor to sign up,
adding that Anstrom had been a mentor to him in recent weeks.

When looking at the Fortune Top 50 companies for diversity,
Lawson said, one common denominator was that the companies that were most successful at
maintaining diverse work forces tended to have mentorship programs.

Jackson told his mostly minority audience that minorities
excel at sports "because whenever the rules are public, the playing field is even and
the goals are clear, we can make it. All we want is one set of rules."

Rainbow/PUSH plans to involve NAMIC in its third annual
Wall Street Projects conference Jan. 12 through 14, which will include a session on

NAMIC and the Walter Kaitz Foundation both updated their
Web sites last week. NAMIC will now allow members to post resumes on its site, giving MSOs
that want to improve their levels of diversity in the work force an easy way to find
minorities who are already in the industry.

Although TDN's new Web site will initially be promoted to
industry insiders, the coalition also plans to find ways of targeting minorities outside
of cable.

In addition to its new Web site, TDN has created
public-service announcements with a toll-free number to call for information on industry
jobs, as well as posters that cable companies can place in their lobbies and front offices
to herald their focus on diversity.

The coalition also created a seven-minute documentary that
companies can use in their diversity-training initiatives.

Lawson said TDN would help to position the cable industry
to be a model of diversity for other businesses.