Whoever wins this year’s presidential election, 2008 will be seen as a watershed period for minorities in the U.S. Barack Obama currently holds the slimmest of margins and, should he lose to John McCain, you can bet he will be back in the next cycle, having proved that we have finally entered an era in which a person of color can lead and refocus one of the two major political parties. An Obama win, on the other hand, could have immediate influence on diversity efforts in all industries — they would likely have to undergo some refocusing of their own (see the roundtable on page 37 for a discussion of the future of cable’s diversity efforts). As our fifth annual Most Influential Minorities in Cable list on the succeeding pages indicates, diversity efforts have borne fruit, as the doors to advancement continue to widen, so much so that creating this list has become a nearly Herculean task, one the CableFAX staff handled with the keen guidance, yet again, of NAMIC, and, of course, with the participation of the entire industry, which surpassed last year’s number of nominations.
Last year we knew our No. 1 for 2007, Richard Parsons, was leaving the industry, and we wondered if another minority executive would step into a role as powerful as chairman and CEO of Time Warner (no one has). Also, our No. 2 from last year, Christina Norman, has departed MTV. In addition, we’re still waiting for the day when it won’t be unusual for a person of color or a woman to hold the top job at a major MSO. But minorities are wielding greater influence on the whole, with programming executives like Debra Lee and Andrea Wong and regional cable chiefs like Steve White not only making the big deals, but also serving as mentors for new generations of leaders. That’s what’s more striking than anything — the giving back. Hiring and firing and bringing in revenue — sure, that’s one kind of influence. But inspiring others? That’s the kind of influence that has a lasting effect.
As was the case last year, the top 50 most influential executives are ranked numerically, based on contributions to their companies, the industry, and diversity. The executives in the second 50 are listed alphabetically. This year we’ve added a list of influential regional cable operator executives, and execs who are appearing for the first time on our Most Influential Minorities in Cable list are noted with a "1st Year" emblem.