Guest Commentary: Reaching Beyond Cable’s Boundaries to Diversify

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

It’s been a little more than a year since my tenure began with the Walter Kaitz Foundation and I experienced Cable Diversity Week for the first time.

During that week last September, the people I met often asked what my plans were for the foundation. While this was a natural question for someone new on the job, I believe it was more than just seeing what the new guy had planned. They were asking because diversity plays an important role in the cable industry and beyond, and they wanted to lend their support.

Over the past year, I’ve crisscrossed the country listening and learning from many throughout the industry. Cable operators, programmers and others always had words of wisdom to share and advice on what more can be done to expand opportunities for women and people of color.

However, as I look forward to my second year with the foundation, I’m hoping to help lead the industry beyond our traditional boundaries. While the foundation is as dedicated as ever to enhancing diversity by providing support for the Emma Bowen Foundation, the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications and Women in Cable Telecommunications, I believe that Kaitz can do even more to help diversify the cable industry’s workforce, supplier resources and programming content.

The Walter Kaitz Foundation is in a unique position to bring together those companies and individuals who might not otherwise collaborate, to open the doors to new opportunities in all segments of the industry and beyond. We must also continue to develop activities, expand funding and identify new partners to increase our reach and effectiveness. One way we’ve already done this is through heightening the role we can play to help enhance programming content.

This week the foundation will partner with NAMIC to increase the awareness of opportunities within the cable industry by co-sponsoring a keynote address by Mariane Pearl, widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, and a subsequent panel focused on the media, news coverage and cultural awareness. This program adds an additional element to Cable Diversity Week activities by inviting individuals outside of cable, including members of the National Association of Black Journalists, Asian Journalists and students of color from local colleges and organizations.

This past June, the foundation participated in the second annual Diversity Fellowship Program in collaboration with the National Association of Television Program Executives. The goal of the program is to assist producers of color in gaining access to television production. The program facilitated a series of meetings with production and studio executives, as well as with concentrated access to networking opportunities during NATPE’s annual LATV Festival.

Last year, Fox helped launch the initiative by sponsoring six producers of color to participate in an intensive television production training program. This year participation more than tripled, with 21 fellows taking part in this landmark program. Hopefully, next year participation will triple again.

The Kaitz Foundation helped to expand and customize this program to meet the needs of the participating fellows by providing an extended curriculum to include mentoring meetings, lunches and breakfasts with key producers from cable networks.

The program brought together a wide range of speakers, including programming executives from ESPN, Comcast Networks and Turner Broadcasting.

The LATV Festival also featured top executives from cable networks such as Showtime, Sci Fi Channel, Fox Reality Channel and TV Guide Network.

The Kaitz Foundation is excited about the future of the NATPE Diversity Fellows Program following this year’s success. With so many networks and cable industry professionals participating, we expect to see even more diversity fellows benefit from the program in 2008.

It is programs such as NATPE’s Diversity Fellowship Program that will help Kaitz grow beyond its traditional confines and become a more robust resource for the industry.

Issues like diversity in programming content are important, and the industry must continue its leadership in this area. The images we project and see on television are evolving every season, and they have a powerful impact on society. Our industry has the unique opportunity to broaden the perspectives of our audiences and foster greater harmony across the nation.

Programs like these are but a few of the ways we hope to enhance the images we project. I hope we can continue to build on current initiatives, increase opportunity for people with diverse backgrounds and get them more involved in the creative and production process. Doing this will make these images even more reflective and inclusive in the future.

The Walter Kaitz Foundation is about more than just a yearly fundraising dinner. This organization is truly about advocating for diversity and providing resources for the entire industry. This is the year where we will be looking for new ways to reach out to our industry and beyond. I hope everyone will join me on this exciting journey.

David M. Porter Jr. is the executive director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation.


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