Diversity Is the Real Change
By Phil Kent -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/14/2008 8:00:00 PM
Everywhere you turn, “change” is the word.
Political change. Leadership change. Economic change. Climate change. Change has everyone talking, which is a sure sign that something big has already happened. Because as smart and bold and open to change as we like to think we are, we're usually slow to see it coming.
The big change for those of us in media and entertainment—bigger even, I think, than all of the technology-enabled ways in which consumers now access our products—is who those consumers are. America is more ethnically and culturally diverse now than at any time in its history. In our lifetime, in the span of our careers, we'll see new demographic majorities emerge. But as positive and powerful as our collective efforts have been in fostering inclusion and opportunity and creating workplaces and products that better reflect the consumers we serve, the reality is that when it comes to diversity, we are still more often following change than leading it.
This month, we'll celebrate the 25th anniversary of a fundraising event named for a leader who was one of our industry's first and most forceful advocates for change. The Walter Kaitz Foundation and its outreach organizations; The Emma Bowen Foundation; the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Cable (NAMIC) and Women in Cable Telecommunications, are cable's conscience and pathfinders in the critical work of translating good intentions into tangible results.
The company I serve has a long and close history with the Kaitz affiliates, and we are immeasurably better for it. Their guidance, and that of my Turner Broadcasting colleagues associated with each, has informed and inspired our company's diversity efforts and resulting successes.
The turning point came for us a few years back when we started treating diversity not as an idea but as an action. We thought about the kind of next-generation business and creative talent we would need in order to continue to lead in an increasingly competitive and crowded media landscape, and where we'd find it.
We looked for opportunities to broaden the experience and perspective reflected in our content. And we opened a company-wide dialogue about attitudes, differences and what sort of company we want to be. The result—the change—was a new focus on diverse people, programming and perspective as a signature and marketplace differentiator of our company, its brands and businesses, and our future.
Focusing on, and more importantly working on, diversity has gained us some favorable attention as an innovator. I'm proud that we're thought of in that way. But our efforts are first and foremost a strategic investment in creating positive operating results. Turner Broadcasting is in the business of growth.
That's why we recently acquired a group of established Spanish-language television networks to double our scale in Latin America and Mexico. It's why we committed the resources necessary to produce CNN's landmark Black in America series. Why we cast shows like TNT's The Closer and Saving Grace and TBS's Tyler Perry's House of Payne to reflect the diversity of real life and real-life workplaces. And why we continue to charter in-house business resource groups comprised of Turner employees who are connected by culture or interest, and charge them with guiding, informing and growing our business in and with critical markets.
Success in the diversity space starts with acknowledging and internalizing that business diversity is not optional. For companies expecting to compete and succeed in a fundamentally changing world, diversity is mandatory. It's good to do what's right. It's important to be fair. But diversity is more than right and fair; it is a matter of business survival.
We are all beneficiaries of past and present good work by countless others, starting with Walter Kaitz and the foundation that bears his name. We owe them a debt that we can repay with our choices and our service, and by learning and living what they knew first: Change isn't coming. It's already here.
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