She was preaching to the choir, but Federal Communications Commission commissioner Mignon Clyburn told a Diversity Week audience in New York Tuesday that cable is "increasingly setting the standard of excellence on television," citing its increasing variety of original programming that "reflects our multicultural society."
Clyburn, speaking at the National Association For Multi-Ethnicity In Communications (NAMIC) Conference, suggested that cable was in a great position to capitalize on the trend away from video over the TV set.
Pointing to a Pew survey released in August, she said that only 42% of respondents said owning a TV set was a necessity, and among the 18-29-year-olds, that number was only 29%.
"Obviously, change of this magnitude can be unsettling," she said, before noting that the cable industry has avoided the temptation to preserve the old models, instead investing billons to build out its infrastructure. That, she said, puts the industry in a "strong position to lead the market for broadband delivery as the demand for higher speeds and more bandwidth grows."
If over-the-top video becomes the new standard, she suggested, it would favor networks best equipped to deliver bandwidth-hungry video. "Right now," she pointed out, "that would be cable." She also put in a plug for keeping that online pipeline open to content by and for women and minorities.
Still, Clyburn pointed to room for improvement in the cable industry as well. While she said that NAMIC research showed there has been "consistent improvement" in diversifying the workforce, the numbers still did not match their percentages in the population, and that the survey also showed a "slight bias" against minorities and women in retention.
Clyburn also sent the message to companies who want to merge in the media space, "While I can't discuss the specifics of pending matters, for mergers in the media industry in particular," she said, "commitments to promote and protect diversity are critical. I will value assurances from parties that their proposed transactions and mergers will result in more opportunities for new and diverse entrants, whether in programming or marketing, or in hiring staff or choosing vendors."
Comcast, steward of the first big proposed media merger under the Obama administration, has made a number of pledges on the diversity front, including programming, marketing, staffing and vendors.