While Debbie Smith is about to make a change in her professional address, she’ll continue to be an advocate for diversity in cable. After nearly two years guiding The Walter Kaitz Foundation as executive director, Smith will move to Discovery Communications in April as VP of diversity and human resources. Under Smith, Kaitz raised almost $3 million through its annual New York dinner, with the majority of the proceeds disbursed as grants supporting diversity initiatives at WICT, NAMIC and The Emma Bowen Foundation. CableWORLD: Why move from Kaitz to Discovery? Debbie Smith: It’s an awesome opportunity. Discovery is a fabulous company, and to work with [SVP of human resources and administration] Pandit Wright is incredible. I can do what I love, which is creating diversity initiatives. CW: What are cable’s diversity challenges? Smith: Recognizing that every day, cable companies do something around diversity in programming, marketing, recruitment, retention or outreach. Diversity must be intertwined in their business plan and practiced as a crucial part of this business. This is not a social program. This is a business imperative. CW: What’s left to do at Kaitz before you leave? Smith: Getting our revamped website used and continue ramping up supplier diversity plans. At the National Show, we will partner again with SCTE and NAMIC on our Supplier Diversity Day, and we will look at additional supplier diversity workshops elsewhere. Later this month, we’ll be distributing a questionnaire to all our member companies to see where supplier diversity programs have been started. Funding continues to be a high priority. Last year, we distributed $1.5 million in grants, on top of $1.3 million for 2004. CW: Has supplier diversity improved during your tenure at Kaitz? Smith: More women and minority-business enterprises have been made aware that the cable industry is interested in doing business with them. Their presence has grown at the National Show, and at NAMIC’s conference in New York last fall we had more than 140 reps from women- and minority-owned businesses for a meeting. This is a conduit for information that can lead to contracts. CW: Is Kaitz doing anything else to facilitate supplier diversity? Smith: What you will see coming soon on the Kaitz website is a place where these firms can fill out a lengthy profile on their work. From there, cable companies can do a search for vendors they need and find those profiles. That capability should be up by the end of February. CW: What role will you have in picking the next Kaitz executive director? Smith: I’m working with Isaacson, Miller—an executive search firm based in Boston—to shape the position description. If they need me for anything else, I’d be delighted to do that. CW: How do you want your Kaitz tenure to be remembered? Smith: I hope that people will recognize that the foundation is up and running again fully. I hope people understand that diversity is everyone’s business, and that this foundation is out to enhance diversity in the cable industry. You hope people continue to understand and practice diversity every single day. Spencer Kaitz was on the right track 24 years ago to start this.

The Daily


Effros: What’s ‘Cable?’

Steve Effros talks about regulation and fees for “cable television” providers versus streaming services, despite offering what consumers perceive to be the same thing.

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