This is the time of convergence and diversification in
telecommunications: cable, plus digital, plus long-distance, plus local telephone, plus
Internet, plus whatever's next. Those who don't may perish.
As demonstrated by the recent AT&T
Corp./Tele-Communications Inc. merger announcement, cable, with its inherent technological
advantages, will continue to play an increasingly pivotal role in bringing a full spectrum
of information and communications services to customers. And that's good: The
advantages that cable technologies can offer to an information- and entertainment-hungry
public are clear.
But even as pundits predict that consumers will benefit
from corporate merging and diversification (with fewer and fewer communications providers
offering more and more services), we shouldn't lose sight of another key area where
diversifying is no less important: our own work force.
I strongly believe that the cable industry will never be
all that it can be, or remain in the center of the creative synergies and opportunities
that we're experiencing now, if we think about diversification only in terms of
Unless we work harder to achieve an employee base that
better replicates existing and future markets, our subscribership may decline in a
competitive environment. And unless we better reflect the true diversity that is (and that
will increasingly be) America, our business opportunities may decline, as well.
My dad, Walter Kaitz, knew this, too. When he pioneered
advocacy for the upstart cable industry in California in the 1960s, he envisioned the
broadest application of a technology that would grow and be available to all communities.
He worked hard to make cable the leader in providing quality video services -- and he knew
that this meant being inclusive, not exclusive.
That's why the Walter Kaitz Foundation was established
15 years ago -- to help guarantee that the cable industry never stands still in its
efforts to include everyone. To do that, my dad knew that cable had to actually reflect
the many diverse communities that it sought to serve, and that it had to use the strength
of diverse leadership from within.
Since its inception, the foundation has helped to spark a
necessary convergence of our existing work force with qualified employees of color. Our
industry can rightfully be proud of its successes in identifying and placing a broader
range of individuals in management and leadership positions in ways that no other
telecommunications industry has done. But even after 15 years, we are still in the infancy
of an effort that has yet to reach maturity.
Take a look, for example at the Federal Communications
Commission's recently issued "Broadcast and Cable Employment Report." For
the past five years, the report found that overall broadcast-industry-employment growth
for females and minority representation had increased. But if one looks closer at the
actual numbers involving full-time upper-level employees, we find that:
Female representation in the industry increased by
only 0.1 percent, to 29.4 percent;
Minority employment increased by the same small
percentage, to 20.9 percent; and
Far and away, the great majority of jobs in the
cable industry for minorities remained in the clerical and technical occupations, which
don't allow great leadership opportunities.
And leadership, after all, is what the Walter Kaitz
Foundation is all about.
Beyond this 50th year of cable television, it will take the
continued generous support and leadership of this industry to move us closer to diverse
management teams poised for the challenge of the next century. And, of course, it will
take the continued interest of qualified leaders of color seeking a future in the cable
and telecommunications industries. It will take continued convergence to assist in
building this needed diversity.
Luckily, and with the hard work of the foundation's
staff and president, this important effort is growing in ways that will allow a broader
spectrum of achievers to contribute to the vitality and diversity of the cable and
telecommunications industry. Maybe soon, the reflection of our work force behind cable
channels will come closer to matching the diverse reality of those subscribers in front of
The Walter Kaitz Foundation is continuing to make it
Spencer Kaitz is president and general counsel of the
California Cable Television Association and founding director of the Walter Kaitz