Diversity: Industry Still Taking Baby Steps

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New York -- The cable industry continues to make small strides in its diversity efforts, but industry complacency and challenges from competing technologies could very easily derail its progress, according to executives speaking at the opening panel of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications’ 19th annual conference here.

Despite the increasing propensity of people of color to spend millions of dollars on cable programming and services such as HD and broadband, NAMIC president Manish Jha said the industry’s executive ranks are still woefully lacking minority faces.

And while the industry has made some strides on the programming end with the creation of more ethnically targeted services, NAMIC conference co-chair Douglas Holloway said minorities are still poorly represented among network and cable MSO owners, which control the distribution of such programming to consumers.

Holloway added that the industry has been somewhat successful in attracting people of color, but it has failed to keep them within the industry by providing opportunities for them to move into executive offices.

Once qualified minorities are in the industry, conference co-chair Bill Bresnan said, providing mentoring opportunities is critical to retention and upward mobility within the industry. “Getting people in and then letting them go without mentoring them is not the way to go,” he added.

Bresnan pointed to the positive work of such organizations such as NAMIC and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media in fostering diversity within the industry, but he said the effort has to also come from the executives at top cable companies.

“We get all fired up and then go back to our workplaces and other priorities get in the way,” he added. “There has to be a way to keep this week top-of-mind to the point where it doesn’t get displaced.”

The industry’s diversity efforts also face challenges from outside of the industry. National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow said several public-policy issues -- including broadcast-network multicasting and telephone-company pleas to forgo local franchising deals in launching video services -- could hurt the progress cable has made in diversifying its programming services to consumers.

“If we don’t prevail on these issues, we could see some of our most diverse programming shunted aside by government fiat,” he said. “Some of our nation’s most diverse communities may not benefit from increasing competition in the marketplace. In short, some of the diversity evolution may notbe televised if others have their way.”

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