Irving Accuses OTT of Diversity Deficit

Consultant and former top Clinton Administration official Larry Irving read online video sites the riot act Wednesday over what he said was a lack of diversity in the board rooms and the programming suites and just about everywhere else.

Irving was speaking at the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council's annual Broadband and Social Justice Summit Washington.

Irving, who was a top telecom advisor to President Clinton, said he had the flu but proceeded to give a stem-winder of a speech in which he took direct aim at Silicon Valley for a lack of diversity and Netflix and Amazon for not funding programming by black or Latino producers or having boardrooms that reflected that diversity.

He told his audience that they were ponying up the online video subscription dollars to companies that "don't hire our people or fund our programming."

He said that of the 31 shows just announced by Netflix, none were from blacks or Latino producers and that Amazon was hardly any better.

Irving said he had read a story about there not being enough black lobbyists but argued that was not the conversation that was needed. He said he had run HP's global telecom arm and had hired lots of lobbyists and had a nice office and could travel, but that was not where the change was coming from.

He opined that there were few minorities among FCC officials or top Hill staffers, and wondered why nobody wrote to the President during the network neutrality debate to point out that there was a diversity problem with edge providers, who were among the new rules’ beneficiaries.

He said when he talked with progressive activist groups about the issue and the fact that they were not talking about such redlining, they said to be patient and they would turn to diversity once the net neutrality victory was won.

But Irving said their "we'll be right with you" turned in to a "see you later, folks." He said he had yet to see one of those progressive leaders talk the talk as well as they fought the fight for net neutrality.

Irving said his audience needed an agenda, to fight for broadband deployment and fight for apps that don't discriminate, to fight to be in the room, and to talk about the issue of how a broadband-driven revolution in the workplace is creating a generation of contractors without benefits like retirement.

MMTC president Kim Keenan seconded the need for such an agenda and pledged to work for it.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.