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Diller to Shop $6M Solution

As discussions continue with the Walter Kaitz Foundation, USA Networks chairman Barry Diller is looking for other possible recipients of a $6 million contribution to create broadcast and new-media jobs for minorities and women.

The revelation comes two weeks after sources said the Kaitz board of trustees turned down Diller's offer, which would have put the foundation in charge of diversity efforts for both broadcasting and cable.

Kaitz trustees believe the foundation should work strictly for the advancement of diversity in the cable industry-particularly since some executives recently criticized it for placing too few minorities in top-level cable posts.

The foundation would like to work with USA on developing a new-media fellowship program that would train women and minorities for jobs in growing Internet-related categories.

But USA vice president of corporate communications Adrienne Becker said last Friday Diller and USA were committed to finding one outlet to effectively recruit and train women and minorities for positions in both broadcast television and new media.

While Diller's USA Network and Sci Fi Channel are both cable networks, the company also owns broadcast stations in 12 markets, including Miami, Dallas and Atlanta.

"Our objective is increasing diversity in the media workplace," Becker said. "Broadcasting and new media have been underserved, and we believe there's an entity out there that wants to promote diversity amongst all media."

Despite Kaitz trustees' apprehensions about the Diller initiative, Kaitz Foundation public affairs director Lorena Hernandez said the organization hasn't officially closed the door. Newly named Kaitz president Art Torres is talking to USA Network representatives to work out an arrangement under which the foundation can receive the funds.

Torres, who will split his time between the foundation and the California Democratic Party until after Election Day, is also meeting with MSOs about Kaitz programs and initiatives, she said.

One organization interested in working with USA is the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters (NABOB). The group is setting up a Kaitz-type foundation for broadcasting and would like to discuss working with USA on its plans to increase minority radio and TV station ownership, NABOB executive director Jim Winston said.

"I think this issue is critical for the broadcast industry, and we've been trying to set up something to train the next generation of African-American radio and broadcast executives," Winston said. "We certainly want to talk to Mr. Diller and work with him to get something developed on the broadcast side."

The National Association of Broadcasters has also developed broadcast-targeted diversity initiatives.

Last November, the NAB and a group of leading broadcasters set up an investment fund designed to increase ownership of over-the-air television and radio stations by minorities and women. The Quetzal Fund launched with $175 million, NAB said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.