It was a mixed message at Diversity Week, cable’s annual New York-in-September event that emphasizes the importance of multicultural thinking and a diverse workforce—and raises money to achieve both.
 
There’s much to praise. NAMIC’s 20th convention was well organized and energetic. Much energy emanated from the Excellence in Multi-Cultural Marketing Awards (EMMA), where it was clear that MSOs and programmers finally recognize that ethnic markets have consumers with money to spend. Also good: Time Warner Cable’s first corporate effort in Spanish nabbed an EMMA; Comcast San Francisco Bay Area’s debut of a Manila-based channel was the most successful cable launch in the area.

You had to feel proud when Cable Positive chief Steve Villano, while acknowledging the stigma still stuck to AIDS, boasted that cable is alone in providing AIDS education programs for employees. His organization has trained more than 60,000 cable employees.

But nearly half the audience at NAMIC’s opening session “voted” with handheld devices that they couldn’t approach their bosses on diversity matters. The response rate for NAMIC’s report on multi-ethnic employment—just 14 anonymous companies participated—was poor, never mind the findings, which were, you guessed it, mixed. In part, diversity is a mind-set that must exist at the top before it can permeate. Thus the concern when NAMIC’s report cites the “significant decrease in the percentage of CEOs signing off on executive compensation tied to diversity…”

NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow, whose growing reputation is based on his penchant for straight talk, uncharacteristically skirted the issue. In a very safe speech to NAMIC he praised cable’s “honesty” for its yearly diversity self-examination. NAMIC’s findings and the poor response rate went unmentioned. In what was unfortunate timing, McSlarrow and the NCTA board were to be briefed on NAMIC’s report the following day.

This raises some questions. How few companies need to respond for McSlarrow to applaud the industry’s honesty? Why didn’t NCTA and NAMIC work it so McSlarrow and the board could be briefed prior to the speech? If you assume NCTA was privy to the 23-page brief, then why did McSlarrow miss this chance to get ahead of the issue? During an excellent panel on diversity in ad sales, the moderator, our own Paul Maxwell, suggested that the NAMIC-NCTA briefing would be interesting. He’s right.

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