Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Diversity and the Audience Growth Project

The Station Resource Group, which is managing the Grow the Audience project, objected to my posting on public radio's poor track record regarding diversity. At issue are two adjacent paragraphs in the original posting. Here they are again:

It will be quite some time before the success of this new initiative can be measured but it should be noted now that there isn't a single African American or Hispanic person from inside public radio on the Grow the Audience Task Force. All of the diverse voices are from outside the industry.

The composition of the Task Force, unfortunately, shines a light on the inability of public radio's national organizations to recruit, nurture, and promote African Americans and Hispanics to positions of power and influence.

The SRG objected to the first paragraph, pointing out that the three diverse voices on the task force have worked extensively on the board level in public radio. It is a fair complaint. Board members, though not involved with day-to-day operations, should be considered from within the industry. The SRG provided short bios on each person and those are shown below.

The central point of my post can be found in the the second paragraph, that the composition of the Task Force is an unfortunate reminder that public radio has poor track record at recruiting, nurturing, and promoting African Americans and Hispanics to position of power and influence.

I could have written my way into that more carefully and for that I apologize. But I stand by my central point.

According to CPB's 2007 report on diversity, only 1% of officials at "non-minority controlled" public radio stations are Hispanic. 2.5% are African American. 1.3% are multi-cultural and 2.5% are Native American.

The same report shows there are no Hispanics in charge of major programming decisions at "non-minority controlled" stations. African Americans make up just 1.4% of those in charge of major programming decisions at "non-minority controlled" stations. 1.5% are multi-cultural and 2.5% are Native American.

The industry simply has to do better at providing high-level opportunities to persons of color. There is no better time to enact change than at the beginning of a major initiative such as the Grow the Audience project.

Apparently, and despite their objection to my posting, the SRG agrees. Not long after receiving their first email, the SRG sent another email saying that Sylvia Rivera, General Manager of WRTE in Chicago was added to the Task Force.

It's a start.

You can see who's on the Grow the Audience Task Force by clicking here. The SRG provided bios for 3 of the 17 task force members. They are posted with the SRG's permission.

Frank Cruz is a Trustee of the University of Southern California, the licensee of KUSC, and for the past 8 years has worked directly with the station as a member of KUSC's Board of Councilors. Classical KUSC has the largest Hispanic audience in public radio. Frank served for 12 years on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including as Chairman from 1999 to 2001 and two terms as Vice Chair. He is currently working an effort to bring a new, Latino-focused, English-language public radio service to Los Angeles.

Andrea Taylor has served on the WNYC board of directors since 1997 and has helped guide WNYC's dramatic evolution – in audience, funding, and facilities – over the past decade. WNYC-FM has the second largest Hispanic audience in public radio and WNYC-AM and WNYC-FM have the 10th and 12th largest African-American audiences. In addition, as a grant maker, Andrea has overseen tens of millions of dollars in production funding for public media, including major grants to our national networks.

Orlando Bagwell worked at WGBH for five years, from 1995 to 2000. He also has had a distinguished career as an independent film maker, including a key role in the historic Eyes on the Prize series. He has received two Columbia School of Journalism Duponts and two Peabodys among the many awards honoring his productions. Though he is admittedly more from the "tv side of the house," he knows – hands-on – what it means to make programming, find funds, connect with the network, do outreach, and develop an aftermarket. Orlando is directing the Ford Foundation's five-year $50 million investment in public media that includes major funding for NPR, PRI, PRX, Public Radio Capital, and several major public radio stations, all of whom he meets with both individually and collectively on a regular basis.

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