The National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (better known as NAMIC) president Kathy Johnson says cable has made some progress at the top ranks — but not enough. She also tells Simon Applebaum why NAMIC is sponsoring a television writer’s workshop during its 21st annual conference in New York next week. Don’t miss Simon’s expanded Q&A with Kathy … or Kathy’s essay in CableWorld‘s 2007 diversity week special issue
Cable World: Where did cable make the most progress on diversity during the last 12 months?
Johnson: Hiring new people at the middle-management level. I don’t see a lot of significant progress at the executive ranks. We haven’t done a survey on the situation since 2006. We’re on tap to measure that next year.
CW: Why isn’t progress occurring at the executive level?
Johnson: It’s difficult to say without actually being inside the companies every day. There’s a lot of competition for talent out there. Attracting people to come into our industry, then retaining them once they’re in, is another competition to deal with.
CW: Do you see more progress with operators than programmers?
Johnson: The good news is that more cable operators are appearing in the rankings of the best companies for diversity. Cox and Comcast were both in the latest Diversity Inc. top 50 list. Time Warner and its Turner Broadcasting unit have been on that list a couple of years. That’s some progress.
CW: Your conference next week has a new wrinkle, a writer’s workshop. Tell us about this.
Johnson: The Walter Kaitz Foundation funded this initiative. We’ve limited it to 15 writers. We invited up-and-coming writers of color to come to the workshop and hone their craft for TV writing. This is in response to companies who want us to help diversify the content development side of the business.
CW: Are you looking at having similar workshops for producers or directors?
Johnson: At this juncture, nothing yet. We will plan another writer’s workshop next spring in Los Angeles, during our next Creative Summit presentation. For our 2008 New York conference, we’re considering the addition of a content development track.
CW: What roles can NAMIC play in stimulating diversity in such areas as HD, VOD, Web and interactive TV content?
Johnson: We’re going to increase our focus on the digital media arena. We did our first Webinar on digital media in July. Some of our conference sessions next week will focus on digital. That’s the next area of opportunity.
CW: Is any one development giving you optimism that cable will improve its diversity profile in the year ahead?
Johnson: Andrea Wong becoming CEO at Lifetime is great news. With her track record at ABC, we can look forward to great things at Lifetime. Another is Scott Mills becoming president/COO at BET. That’s very positive movement.