Kaitz’s David Porter on the Move Westward

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Walter Kaitz Foundation executive director David Porter recently sat down with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead to discuss the organization’s annual fund-raising dinner this week (Oct. 28). Porter outlined some of the challenges facing this year’s event as, for the first time, it moves from New York to Denver, and discussed the organization’s future prospects in supporting the industry’s diversity efforts. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: How will the change in venue from New York City to Denver affect attendance for the Kaitz Foundation dinner this year?

David Porter: I think not being in New York is clearly a challenge. A huge majority of past participants have come from the greater New York metropolitan area, so now all those people will have to fly to Denver to attend the dinner. Also, the people who came into New York for the dinner from out of town most likely had other business reasons to come to New York, but that won’t necessarily happen in Denver.

MCN: Having said that, any estimation as to how many people will actually attend the Kaitz Dinner?

DP: I don’t know for sure, but we’re planning for around 800 or so.

MCN: What was last year’s tally?

DP: Last year’s tally was approximately 1,200.

MCN: From what I understand the National Cable & Telecommunications Association will meet last year’s revenue take from the dinner, even though you might be down in terms of attendees. Is that still the case?

DP: We haven’t heard otherwise so we assume that’s still the case.

MCN: What are you looking to accomplish this year with the dinner?

DP: We try once a year to get the industry to focus on the fact that diversity is still critical to the industry’s ongoing success, and that there’s still a lot more work to be done if we really are going to have the workforce and on-air content that fully reflects our customers or a supplier base that reflects the population which we serve. While we celebrate the efforts that [dinner honorees] Comcast and Turner Broadcasting have done in these areas, there’s still more work to be done and we try to remind the industry of that every year.

MCN: Is there a concern that the industry changes regarding the major shows and dinners going forward will jeopardize the Kaitz Foundation, in terms of what it can do with regard to diversity?

DP: I don’t expect that to be the case. First, our operating budget doesn’t come from dinner revenue — that revenue all goes to support [the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications], [Women In Cable Telecommunications] and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation. Even if we didn’t have a dinner at all, the industry would still provide us with the dues that we need to operate.

But one of the biggest things we do as an organization is provide support to those organizations, so if we’re unable to raise the amount of money we’ve been able to raise in the past, that would impact what we can do to some extent.

MCN: If the foundation sustains significant losses in attendance and/or revenue over the next year or two, would you consider potentially moving the dinner back to New York? Are you contractually obligated to stay within the Cable Connection schedule of events every year?

DP: The location of the dinner is ultimately decided by the board of trustees for the foundation, who are also the NCTA board of directors. If they want us to stay with Cable Connection, then next year we’ll be in New Orleans. If they decide that it makes more sense for us to go back to New York, then we’ll be in New York.

We haven’t signed any contracts for any locations for next year, so there’re still opportunities for people to make the choices that they decide to make.