For 22 years, NAMIC — the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications — has recognized outstanding television and digital content about the lives and contributions of people of color through its Vision Awards. Amid controversies such as the lack of diversity among the major Oscar nominees earlier this year, NAMIC has chosen winners in 18 different categories from more than 83 nominations across 29 networks and distributors, representing the best in diversity-themed television programming.
NAMIC CEO Eglon Simons spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about this year’s Vision Awards honorees and the importance of celebrating the achievements of people of color both in front of and behind the camera — especially in an era with unprecedented amounts of content tailored to multicultural viewers. Here’s an edited excerpt of their conversation.
MCN: How would you define the Vision Awards?
Eglon Simons: The intent of the Vision Awards, which were created in association with NAMIC’s Southern California chapter, is to highlight individuals who have created quality and entertaining multicultural-themed product that may or may not have been recognized by other entertainment-based awards shows. The Vision Awards are even more timely this year, because it allows us the opportunity to fill the gap that the some other well-known awards shows have not been filling lately.
MCN: How important is NAMIC’s focus on multicultural-themed content through the Vision Awards, particularly given the fact that we’re seeing more shows featuring actors of color in prominent roles on television?
ES: I think what’s important about the Vision Awards is that it talks about shows and themes that don’t always find their way to the big networks, so the Vision Awards allows submissions of content that captures the multicultural nature of stories that don’t always gain exposure. With increased distribution of content across multiple platforms providing more ways for people to see content, it’s often difficult to recognize it all. The Vision Awards also provides a venue to encourage more creativity … when people know that there is a forum out there that will recognize their creativity, I think that’s encouraging.
MCN: Given how many over-the-top, online streaming services now offer original content, how inclusive of digital media is NAMIC with regard to its Vision Awards nominations and winners?
ES: When you think about the fact that people can produce content on their phones and upload it to YouTube, it allows a venue to be creative, and we provide a forum for that content to be recognized. To the extent that we can provide a wider reach into the entertainment community, we can offer viewers more awareness and exposure of the shows and content that they want to see. It’s just beneficial for all involved.
MCN: Do you foresee the Vision Awards eventually moving to a big-event ceremony in the future?
ES: I would hope so. The cable and communications industry is going so through such a sea change right now. I can remember when I first started in the television industry, any television show that generated below a 25 share wouldn’t survive. Now, when you look at shares and ratings points, a 1.5 share is big stuff for many networks. I say all of that to say that the measuring points are different than they once were.
Given that there is such an exciting array of entertainment and creativity available, at some point it may substantiate a bigger platform such as a gala to recognize the quality of multicultural content in the marketplace. There will always be a need to celebrate diversity both on the screen and off the screen.