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At Fox, Diversity Initiatives Thrive

I read with a sense of déjà vu the July 14 Airtime of Mark D. Walton, "For More Behind-Scenes Diversity," on the state of diversity in the television industry. Déjà vu set in because every one of the ideas, or "lessons," suggested by Walton have been implemented at the Fox Entertainment Group.

I was hired by Fox three years ago to create and run the Office of Diversity Development, which has helped effectuate dramatic gains for women and people of color in our broadcast, filmed entertainment and cable programming divisions. On the broadcast side, 17 of our 22 series last season included ethnically diverse or female directors, with 26 people of color directing 75 episodes (twice the number from the 1999-2000 season), and women directing 29 episodes. Similarly, 19 of our 22 series last season included at least one diverse writer or producer of color, with a total of 37 writers and producers of color staffed on those 19 series (more than 3 times those in 1999).

How did Fox accomplish such dramatic improvement? We implemented proven diversity programs in new and creative ways, taking into account the unique characteristics of our industry and our company. The programs in place at Fox include: (1) The launch of a writers initiative designed to identify, develop and hire diverse writers for various positions on Fox series; (2) the development of a talent database that tracks diverse writers and directors for internal pitching to our series' producers through Fox television executives; (3) internships at colleges and graduate schools, including a paid internship program at historically black Howard University in Washington; (4) management training programs that involve mentoring of trainees by company executives; (5) hiring initiatives that ensure inclusion of persons of color and women in the candidate pools; (6) a procurement program that ensures access for minority and women-owned businesses, resulting in purchase gains from diverse companies totaling in the millions of dollars. This is just a sample of the diversity initiatives in place and on the drawing board at Fox.

Mr. Walton was absolutely correct about his final two "lessons." Top management at our company—Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of Fox Entertainment Group, Sandy Grushow, chairman of the Fox Television Group, and Gail Berman, president of Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co.—has set the tone and the agenda for Fox's diversity program. Their commitment is evidenced in the dramatic improvement realized in the last three years. They live by the motto that failure in the area of diversity is not an option. Moreover, they ensure that this attitude infuses the entire organization by incorporating diversity benchmarks as part of our company's appraisal and compensation process. In this and other respects, they have put teeth into a diversity program that we believe is second to none.

Is it time to sit back and rest on our laurels? Far from it. We have only just begun, and Fox will not rest until the issue of diversity is no longer an "issue," until it is part of the very fabric of our company, our industry, and our society.