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Avoiding a Diversity Weak Future

9/26/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

With Diversity Week now a footnote in the annals of cable-television event history alongside the Western Show and the Cable ACE Awards, it will be interesting to see if the industry continues to provide the same support to diversity through the NAMIC Conference and the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner under the new event consolidation plan put forth by the industry’s bigwigs.

For more than 20 years, the two organizations have shined an important weeklong spotlight in September on the issue of diversity in cable through conferences, seminars, dinners, awards and lectures. And the industry has slowly but surely responded by attending such events and providing financial support for the organizations’ various activities that extend beyond Diversity Week.

But with those events being shoehorned into a weeklong fall “Cable Connection” event reorganization schedule, it’s unclear whether the organizations will receive the same support they’ve worked hard to earn over the years.

This year, NAMIC drew 800 attendees for its conference, the most in the event’s 22-year history. Many of those attendees heard results from the NAMIC biannual employment diversity survey indicating that the industry has increased the number of people of color employed at MSOs and programming networks.

But they also heard that the industry needs to step up its efforts if it is to catch up to its chief competitors, the telephone companies, which are placing more minorities in the executive ranks, and because it’s serving a consumer base that will continue to become more diverse over the next few decades.

Will the results of NAMIC’s 2010 employment survey reach the ears of as many cable executives when the NAMIC Conference takes place in New Orleans, side by side with the CTAM Summit and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo?

The Walter Kaitz Foundation drew 1,300 attendees for its 25th anniversary dinner two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see if Kaitz can draw that many attendees next year in Denver during the same week as the Cable Hall of Fame dinner.

The half-hearted response Kaitz Foundation executive director David Porter received when he asked dinner attendees whether they’d be back next year wasn’t reassuring. (Then again, the tepid response may have had more to do with the lukewarm fish-and-steak dinner.)

Undoubtedly the industry has made gains related to employing people of color and reaching out to minority-owned suppliers. But it would be foolhardy for the industry to ease up on the pedal as it drives toward better reflecting the diverse makeup of the consumer base it serves due to potential scheduling conflicts with diversity-themed events. The NAMIC Conference and Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner and fundraiser are important tools the industry can call upon to help achieve its diversity goals.

While the industry’s annual Diversity Week schedule may be history, let’s hope cable doesn’t bid its diversity efforts adieu as well.

September