Former FCC chair Powell leads one of the largest trade associations in DC, which has evolved from its initial focus solely on the cable arena to represent the communications and content industries—and the rapid-fire changes they’re navigating. He got a vote of confidence in February, with the board extending his contract for three more years. Regarding diversity and inclusion, he says, “I believe media is at its finest when it gives voice to a diverse range of views and perspectives and provides a medium for creators of color to story tell. We have seen so many powerful and unique pieces produced by creators of color that have been impactful and popular. The audience wants more of that.”
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?
As an industry, we need to do better. I believe media is at its finest when it gives voice to a diverse range of views and perspectives and provides a medium for creators of color to story tell. We have seen so many powerful and unique pieces produced by creators of color that have been impactful and popular. The audience wants more of that.
What’s a recent example of a step forward for diversity in the industry?
An interesting new dimension for adding diversity into the industry has been the Mission Media initiative to increase the number of veterans in our employee base. Veterans today represent many different backgrounds. And diversity among veterans is growing as those joining the military post 9-11 are an increasingly diverse group in terms of race, ethnicity and gender, a trend that is predicted to continue according to recent estimates from the VA. Mission Media underscores the message that veterans are a tremendous asset for our industry. They know the value of teamwork and are accustomed to working with others who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Veterans have a strong, demonstrated work ethic, are highly motivated and self-directed. And, of course, the industry offers those who have served our country an opportunity to transfer their skills and grow careers in an industry that’s dynamic, growing and tech-based.
In what areas should the industry step up its efforts with regard to diversity and inclusion?
While diversity behind and in front of the camera are among the hottest issues in diversity and inclusion, we see diversity in technology positions following close behind it. This is why the Kaitz Foundation is funding programs at WICT and Emma Bowen to help feed the technology pipeline. We are also hoping to get NAMIC engaged in similar programs for people of color.
What’s your best advice to someone just entering the video content/distribution industry?
You will need to be imaginative, creative and adaptable. This space is changing dramatically, even chaotically. Distribution platforms are expanding, creative works are taking new forms made possible by digital technology, and new business models are being explored and built. One should enter this field with and entrepreneur’s spirit.
What’s been the most dramatic change in your sector of the business today vs. three years ago?
The dramatic expansion of streaming video models and the growing significance of fast broadband. These forces have torn at the fibers of the historical business but have also knitted together new opportunity. There has been a dramatic expansion of programming and a host of new players, non-traditional players like Google, Amazon and Facebook.
If there were a reality show based on your office, what would it be called?
“The Real Trade Associations of Washington, DC”