Reconfirming Cable's Commitment to Diversity


Early on that Tuesday morning last September, just after the Governor of New York's office had finalized details for his appearance at the annual Walter Kaitz Foundation fundraising dinner, the attacks on lower Manhattan changed the world.

Soon thereafter, led by National Cable & Telecommunications Association chairman Michael Willner, along with [Landmark Communications Inc. president and chief operating officer] Decker Anstrom, [NCTA president] Robert Sachs and [California Cable Television Association president] Spencer Kaitz by phone, we gathered at the Broadway headquarters of Insight Communications Co. to discuss how to proceed. We unanimously decided to cancel the dinner, but we knew that no matter what, the cable-broadband industry would remain committed to diversity and the Kaitz Foundation's efforts.

As we move toward the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, it's more important than ever that we continue our industry's diversity efforts.

Last year's dinner was to include the announcement of fundamental changes in the mission of the Kaitz Foundation. I was to speak about how diversity means business in our industry.

But obviously there were other events that would dictate our actions, feelings and words that week.

The sorrow and nightmares we all saw from New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania occurred demonstrably to a patchwork of peoples and this reminded us about the make-up of our great nation. This American tragedy was truly a multi-ethnic tragedy. As we took toll of our feelings and sensibilities, we saw who we were and what America had become. It was a defining moment.

Even the reported backlash in some instances against Arab-Americans produced a public outcry against such actions, including from President Bush, which further fine-tuned the public definition of what America was and what opportunities all Americans deserved.

America is diverse, and our industry should reflect that. Whether its before or behind our programmers' cameras; running local cable telephone services or providing broadband modems; or managing cable operations or technical support for our customers, we need top-to-bottom diversity to match the changing demographics of our customers. Not only because it's right, it's also good business.

That's why the theme of this year's dinner, "Diversity Means Business," will be the same as last year's. Except this time, we won't be announcing new directions for the Foundation; we'll be celebrating the progress of our changes.

Thanks in large part to the cable systems, broadband technology companies, programmers and media companies who supported a dinner that didn't happen, The Walter Kaitz Foundation has been able to move away from being an isolated diversity placement tool.

In partnership with the other associations that help our industry's diversity efforts, everyone who purchased a [dinner] ticket helped allow the implementation of Kaitz's new mandates to:

  • Award grants to innovative diversity efforts.
  • Build a successful diversity suppliers program.
  • Enhance outreach efforts with diverse organizations in and out of our industry.

The Foundation has kept the momentum going.

In January we announced a new grants program that now supplies funding in two key areas: Community & Resource Development and Workforce Development. At May's National Show in New Orleans, we announced the first round of over $200,000 in new grants for initiatives that will result in demonstrated results from the following groups:

  • Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, $35,000
  • Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association, $25,000
  • Emma Bowen Foundation for Minority Interest in Media, $50,000
  • National Association of Latino Independent Producers, $25,000
  • National Association of Minorities in Communications, $50,000
  • Women in Cable & Telecommunications, $50,000.

Also, $50,000 will be provided to the Polytechnic University of New York's Center for Youth in Engineering & Science to jump start diverse cable industry opportunities for high school engineering students.

Today [July 1], we will be announcing the process for our second round of funding. Information on the new grant program is available online.

The Kaitz board has made it clear that it wants to see grant proposals that are innovative and result in diverse opportunities throughout all sectors of the cable-broadband industry. The board also wants to fund programs that will show results.

In May, the Foundation opened its new enhanced Web site (, bringing a network of greater resources to our diversity efforts and greater opportunities to diverse job seekers, suppliers and grantees. The site offers individuals and diverse communities the opportunity to learn more about the cable-broadband industry with new information, links, an events calendar, and a broad range of employment and vendor opportunities.

Job seekers also can access a resume bank where personal qualifications can be posted for industry professionals to review.

Diverse suppliers can register their companies at no cost on the diversity supplier database.

The more this resource is used, the more useful it will be. I encourage cable industry users to access the resume bank for diverse talent and procurement professionals to search a unique diversity supplier database.

Part of our new agenda is to enhance our outreach efforts to important diverse communities. I have already begun participating at national and regional diversity forums to get the word out about the Foundation's programs and the opportunities within our industry.

In New Orleans, in partnership with NCTA, the Foundation hosted a significant new outreach effort for diversity suppliers with its "Diversity Suppliers Day." I also recently testified in front of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington about our industry's efforts to enhance diversity.

The best outreach that we do as an industry has always been what we produce on the air for our customers. The wide spectrum of cable series, movies, acting roles, hosting opportunities, news and children's programs, clearly shows that our industry actually gets the fact that people of color actually watch television — and that they like seeing people like themselves in stories they care about. Cable has been winning kudos for its efforts to present programming that truly reflects the new American demographics — far exceeding the broadcast industry.

And, because cable and broadband companies responded heroically to the Sept. 11 attacks of last year — with enhanced news coverage, new programming, technical support and community assistance — more citizens were able to see the rainbow of American faces touched by that horror. Cable helped bring the realization of a new ethnic fabric to America — so that vision must continue to be our vision as well.

In these difficult times, working to bring more people of color into our ranks is more important than ever. Because of the tragic events, the sluggish economy and the consolidation of our industry, it is even more critical that we show a successful Kaitz dinner can return to New York this year.

Let's strongly reconfirm, at this 19th Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner, that diversity is not only right for our industry but good for the very fabric of our business as well.