Peterson’s insights into youth culture turned Viacom into a thought leader. “So much of our mass media culture has been dictated by the tastes of few. This is not just an issue of under-representation of black people vs white people or women vs men,” she says. “Hearing stories and seeing shows developed by people whom we haven’t heard from before will only enrich and make more interesting the content that we consume.”
A February 2018 UCLA study revealed that of the 45 new scripted shows approved for 2017-18 across broadcast, cable and digital platforms, only four were from creators of color, all of whom were black. What is your reaction to this report?
So much of our mass media culture has been dictated by the tastes of few. This is not just an issue of underrepresentation of black people vs white people or women vs men. In the very broadest sense we sorely lack stories from people of diverse backgrounds. Hearing stories and seeing shows developed by people whom we haven’t heard from before will only enrich and make more interesting the content that we consume. It’s long overdue. I can’t wait.
What’s a recent example of a step forward for diversity in the industry?
I loved seeing Crazy Rich Asians. And, I was clearly not the only one! As I type this response in the second week of the movie’s release it’s on the way to being one of the top-performing romantic comedies of all time. Amazing! And, important to show the industry that there didn’t need to be a white person co-starring to make that happen. Exciting.
In what areas should the industry step up its efforts with regard to diversity and inclusion?
All areas. But, I think it’s especially important to see a change when it comes to senior decision makers. Once there is more diversity in the rooms where decisions are made, more diversity and more importantly, more inclusion will naturally flow from that.
What’s your best advice to someone just entering the video content/distribution industry?
Develop relationships with people across your organization and cross-functionally in the industry. You never know where your next opportunity or job will come from.
What’s been the most dramatic change in your sector of the business today vs. three years ago?
I hear many more nuanced and dimensionalized conversations about diversity within the industry than I have ever heard before. I think this is partially due to social media giving us proximity to people and issues and conversations that some of us may not have been exposed to previously. An example of that is #Metoo. Crowd culture gives us a chance to challenge mass narratives. When people are exposed to different viewpoints it changes the conversation.
If there were a reality show based on your office, what would it be called?