Harleston was behind the acquisition of Current TV by Al Jazeera Media Network when he was the net’s General Counsel. He then helped transform Al Jazeera America into a national, 24/7 news channel. The biggest story in cable for Harleston is consolidation. “The outcome of the FCC’s pending inquiry into OTT opportunities will speak volumes about the future of program access and the preservation of independent programmer diversity.”
Best business advice you’ve received?
The best business advice I have ever received came from an early mentor, who constantly reminded me that if I wanted to pursue a particular career, position or organization, I should compete for it without any regard to my own sense of its achievability. In his view – and now mine – my responsibility was to outperform any competitors and then let the decision-maker decide. “Never take yourself out of the running,” he admonished. “If they’re going to say ‘no,’ make THEM say ‘no!’”
How can cable better support diversity?
From my perspective, it is important that the industry recognize the importance of reflecting America on the business side of the industry in addition to the creative or editorial side. Diversity is especially critical in the less-visible areas of Finance/Accounting, Business and Legal Affairs, Distribution, Ad Sales and HR for any media organization pursuing strategic growth. Cable can better support diversity by dismissing claims that “competitive candidates are not available” with renewed and aggressive efforts to expand what are often very traditional recruiting strategies in an effort to identify extraordinary talent for whom careers in media and communications may not have been top-of-mind.
What’s been the biggest story in cable this year?
In my view, the biggest story in cable this year arises out of a single word: Consolidation. Mergers and acquisitions continue to shrink the number of distributors, relegating programmers – and independent programmers in particular – to increasingly inferior bargaining positions when it comes to carriage. The question becomes whether viewers will continue to be able to enjoy the rich diversity of programming to which they are entitled. The answer to that question will likely turn upon the degree of interest regulators may take in ensuring that network and program diversity blossoms. The outcome of the FCC’s pending inquiry into OTT opportunities will speak volumes about the future of program access and the preservation of independent programmer diversity.