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Kaitz Dinner Raises $1.5M

The Walter Kaitz Foundation benefit dinner, including sponsorships, delivered $1.5 million that will aid three cable industry organizations devoted to workplace diversity by gender, race and ethnic backgrounds.

Executive director David Porter made that announcement at the New York Hilton Wednesday night. He had said last week the dinner was expected to draw more than 1,000 people, and the ballroom did look full. A year ago, in Denver, about $1 million was raised and 750 attended.

Porter said the return of Diversity Week to New York after a two-year hiatus was a clear success, with the dinner preceded by annual conferences by grantees WICT and NAMIC.  He used the phrase “off the chain” to describe the well-attended events, later explaining that he’s an engineer and that’s a technical term.

Discovery Communications was honored as a “Diversity Champion,” and company CEO David Zaslav, in accepting the honor, began by thanking everyone who had sent messages of support after the frightening hostage situation at company headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., on Sept. 2. Discovery was created 25 years ago by John Hendricks, with significant support from key cable investors and believers, on three principles, he said: Quality, integrity and diversity. “And we needed all three of those ideals and more when we dealt with our difficult moment two weeks ago. But it reminded me that ultimately this industry is about people: not headends, not channels, not marketing plans, but it’s about people. The people who work for us, the people who work with us and the people who work beside us. To be our best we need to make sure we are attracting and supporting the best people from all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities.”

U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui (D.-Calif.) also was honored, as a “Diversity Advocate,” for efforts to increase broadband adoption in low-income households. She sent a videotaped thank-you message.

Oprah Winfrey also made a videotaped appearance, cheering Discovery (with whom she is partnering on the new channel, OWN, launching next January).  Porter alluded to her announcement Monday, kicking off her last season on broadcast TV, that she would treat everyone in her studio audience that day to a trip to Australia. One of the dinner’s sponsors, Si TV, would provide a giveaway at the dinner, he said, though it wouldn’t be a trip to Australia.

Toward the end of the night, he announced that five chairs had envelopes underneath them, indicating that person had won an Apple iPad. That was definitely enough to get people excited.

Diversity Week continues Thursday and Friday at the Hilton with the Association of Cable Communicators‘ annual conference. Likely highlight: MCN editor in chief Mark Robichaux will interview NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow at the general session at 9 a.m.