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25 Years of Celebration

Sep 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Good people, good food, good times … and a good cause. That’s the motto of the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s 2008 annual fundraising dinner. For the 25th anniversary of the prestigious cable industry event—the last scheduled for New York City—Wednesday’s dinner promises to be special.
“This year will really be interesting and exciting, and it’s going to be a historic year because this marks a transition,” said Kaitz Foundation Executive Director David Porter. “Next year the Cable Connection-Fall and the Cable Connection-Spring [events] will be consolidated to one-week periods in the year. So we will be moving out of New York to Denver. … For those who say they always want to come, they always want to be here and experience that part of the Kaitz experience, this is the year.”
The Kaitz Dinner is regarded as the cable industry’s premier social event of the year, bringing together professionals from every industry sector for a memorable evening during cable’s Diversity Week. This year’s theme: celebrating the silver anniversary. “It’s really 25 years of success, looking at the foundation and the industry and what they’ve done around diversity in the past 25 years, looking at the progress we’ve made,” Dr. Porter said.
“It’s also about looking forward. It’s saying, ‘OK, we’ve done all of these things, we’ve had success, but there’s still more work to be done, and where are we going in the future?’” he said. “We have the honorees to really help us see some of the best things being done so everyone can learn from them and plan to do even better and go forward.”
Three major awards are presented at the Kaitz Dinner. The Diversity Advocate Award goes to an individual outside the cable industry who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to diversity. This year’s honoree is Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.
“Especially when you look at Congressman Baca’s record, particularly his activities in the Latino community, the issues he’s worked on, he really has been someone who has been a strong advocate for diversity at large, but especially in the Hispanic/Latino community. I think when the committee looked at Baca’s record, it really stood out to us as somebody the foundation would like to recognize.”
The Champion Awards go this year to Scripps Networks, which owns the Food Network, DIY, HGTV, GAC and Fine Living, and cable MSO Bright House Networks. “We decided that it was important for us to recognize both an operator and a programmer, so when we talked about Bright House we saw the things that they’ve done, particularly in their community,” Dr. Porter said.
“[Bright House is] a force in the communities in which they’re in. They work really hard to make sure that diversity is reflected throughout. They work with a number of organizations to always effectively give back. They are very strong advocates in supplier diversity; although they don’t have a specific structured program, they do try to weave diversity within their entire frameworks. Their activities reflect diversity,” he said.
Of Scripps, he said, “If you look at the shows that they broadcast, you see a wide range of diversity, including the people who are stars, as well as the cultures and the food on the various shows. Within the content of what they generate is diversity.”
Scripps is equally committed to diversity behind the camera, he added. “They have an active work program including corporate philanthropy, supplier diversity and professional development. Almost 40% of their senior staff is either women or people of color. … They’ve really stepped up their game even further in the last few years with very specific strategic plans.”
More than 1,200 members of the cable industry attended last year’s Kaitz Dinner, and Dr. Porter said they are on pace for 1,400 this year.
“I’m sure people hoped at [the dinner’s 1983 inception] that the industry’s commitment would be there 25 years later because television is a fast-moving industry. Nobody knew for sure that we’d still be here, but I’m pretty sure we will be here 25 years from now. The commitment is there, it really is.
“You never reach a point where you’re diverse enough, but you hope to get to the point where diversity is so ingrained in everything that you do,” Dr. Porter said. “With that said, we do have a ways to go. We’re making progress. [Kaitz will continue] to point out that there are things we need to pay attention to, here are the things that we’ve learned that we can pass on to help companies do a better job at what they’re trying to do.”

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