In recent months Americans have taken a deep, and sometimes difficult, look at actions and attitudes related to equality, diversity and inclusion in our society. This introspection has taken place not only on a personal level, but a corporate one. The cable industry has been no different.
September – with Labor Day, the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the 72nd annual Emmy Awards – is an ideal time to examine the cable industry’s efforts to support and promote diversity and inclusion, from the C-suite, to community support, to programming.
When it comes to cable’s workforce, the most recent workforce study (released last year) finds it is becoming more diverse. Every two years, Women in Cable Telecommunications and the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) – associations representing women and people of color – measure the diversity of the industry’s employees according to a number of factors.
Among the findings from the study released in 2019 during the industry’s annual Diversity Week:
- People of color make up 44% of the cable industry workforce (above the national benchmark), up from 41% in the 2017 survey.
- 28% of executive and senior-level manager positions are held by people of color (compared to the national benchmark of 15%), up from 25% in the 2017 survey.
- Total turnover is higher for people of color than for whites at every career level.
- If current workforce dynamics persist, the representation of people of color at the manager level and above is expected to remain flat at 32% over the next 10 years, unless organizations are able to retain and promote people of color at the same rates as their white counterparts.
What specifically are cable providers doing to promote diversity and inclusion in their workforce? Here are just a few examples of the programs they have undertaken.
Altice USA, which provides Suddenlink services in Texas, launched its formal Diversity & Inclusion program in 2018. “Together has no limits” is the company’s cultural anthem. As the company explains, “The idea of ‘together’ means more than just our numbers. Together represents inclusion and opportunity for all types of people throughout our company.”
Altice has created employee Affinity Groups that foster communities with shared interests and backgrounds. Through professional development sessions, networking events, panels and community events, the Affinity Groups help create a greater sense of belonging, improve understanding of differences, and inform businesses practices and policies. Among those groups are the Black Employee Affinity Group (B.E.A.N.), which focuses on enhancing the experience, retention and development of all Black employees, and La Voz Latina, which helps Altice USA to attract, retain and advance the best Latino talent by connecting and building the bridge between Altice USA and the Latino community.
In the short time since Altice USA started its diversity and inclusion programs, it has received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index in 2020 and 2019, and recognition by DiversityInc and NAMIC. In 2018, it was honored by Cablefax with its MSO Diversity Award.
At Charter Communications, the company’s diversity efforts are guided by its Executive Steering Committee, Diversity & Inclusion team and External Diversity & Inclusion Council (EDIC). The EDIC is comprised of national civic and business leaders who help the company understand the critical needs of the diverse communities it serves and how to implement its programs to make a positive impact.
Charter has been honored as a Top Company for People of Color by the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) and a Top Company for Women by Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT). These rankings consider workforce demographics and policies and programs.
Charter also supports the nation’s leading organizations advocating for the Latino community, including UnidosUS, the country’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. Charter sponsored the UnidosUS Annual Conference (held virtually this year), and also participated in a plenary session focused on America’s return to work and the role of Latinos in rebuilding the nation’s economy.
Attendees of the virtual event also had the opportunity to learn about open roles at Charter, experience company work life through “day in the life” videos of Charter employees, and speak directly with company recruiters about career interests and opportunities.
Charter also has supported UnidosUS’ efforts to help Latino communities access accurate COVID-19 information and resources, supported community health centers that serve Latino children living in rural areas, and donated PSAs and air time to promote Census participation.
Comcast reports that 44% of its employees were people of color at the end of 2019, a 30% increase since the end of 2010. And 54% of all new hires in 2019 were people of color. Its aspirational goal is to have 50% women and 33% people of color at every level of its workforce.
The company’s commitment to and programs for diversity and inclusion have been recognized on “best” lists in recent years by Fortune and the Great Place to Work Institute, and Black Enterprise. In May, DiversityInc again recognized Comcast NBCUniversal on its 2020 Top 50 Companies for Diversity. The company ranked #7 and also was included on five of DiversityInc’s 2020 Specialty Lists.
Comcast has donated more than $2.1 billion in cash and in-kind giving minority-led and minority-serving organizations since year-end 2010.
Speaking out on social issues
In addition to their commitment to diversity and inclusion in their workforce, Charter Spectrum and Comcast announced two major initiatives in response to the recent national focus on and outcry over racial injustice.
Charter Spectrum in June announced the company will invest $10 million in partnership with both the National Urban League (NUL) and National Action Network (NAN) to support Black and other minority-owned small businesses in underserved communities. This investment will help strengthen small businesses and provide a long-term economic impact vital to the continued development and growth of these communities.
Comcast announced in June it is developing a comprehensive, multiyear plan to allocate $100 million to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability. The company plans to distribute $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years, in addition to the existing commitments the company currently makes to thousands of organizations supporting underrepresented communities through the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation and social impact programs.
Actions in the community
Cable operators also are continuously striving to reflect the vibrant diversity of the Texas communities they serve. Here are some examples in our state:
Members of Altice USA’s Black Employee Affinity Network joined Tyler community members last year as sponsors of the annual Black History Knowledge Bowl, a trivia-style challenge. Altice USA was proud to participate in this celebration of diversity and bring messaging about black innovators and STEM careers to students throughout Texas and the nation.
Since 2016, Comcast Houston has hosted the Hispanic Hero Awards to recognize community volunteers who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to improving the lives of people in underserved communities across the Houston area. This year, due to safety concerns and circumstances presented by the recent coronavirus pandemic, the in-person event was has been converted to a unique digital campaign.
In February, Comcast Houston and Smithsonian Channel hosted an advanced screening of “Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier” at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Hermann Park. The event was attended by close to 500 community leaders, partners, parents and students.
Actions on the air
Cable operators and programmers are also taking steps to make sure what we see on the screen more closely reflects society.
Charter Communications in July added five Latino targeted TV networks – Kids Central, ¡HOLA! TV, Inglés Para Todos, Tarima TV and Hogar de HGTV – at no additional cost to subscribers of Spectrum’s Mi Plan Latino and Latino View TV packages. The networks offer a range of family-friendly, lifestyle, home and garden and educational programming in Spanish and English.
Also in July, Charter announced it plans to significantly expand distribution of Black News Channel (BNC), the nation’s only 24/7 African American-focused news network, by making the channel available to Spectrum TV subscribers throughout the company’s 41-state footprint by early September. Charter was one of the first pay TV providers to offer BNC in some of its biggest markets, including Dallas, upon the network’s launch in early 2020.
Cable programmers also are making changes, including pulling racially insensitive shows or episodes from their lineups and even cancelling some shows, such as A&E’s popular “Live PD” and the long-running “Cops.” This roundup shows some of the movie and TV show changes caused by the Black Lives Matter movement.
With more TV platforms and shows than ever, today there’s more diversity among stories, actors, directors and others involved in production than before. Yet often these diverse shows and individuals are overlooked when awards are handed out. In recent years, Emmy Award nominations and winners are scrutinized for their diversity and inclusion since the Emmys mark the start of Hollywood’s award season. This year’s awards show will air on Sept. 20.
From 2015 to 2019, 82% of the nominees in 19 prime-time Emmy categories were white, including more than three-fourths of the acting nominees and 90% of the writing and directing nominees, according to an analysis by The Los Angeles Times.
For 2020, 38 Black performers nominated for acting awards, a big bump up from last year, while supporting and guest categories most bolstered diversity figures, according to Vanity Fair. While nominations are more diverse, tune into see whether that translates to wins.