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NAMIC Wants More Eyes for Visions

With diversity in hiring at top of mind for cable, the National Association of Minorities in Communications is hoping that the industry will view its annual Vision Awards as an important vehicle to showcase its multiculturalism.

Coming off its successful April 14 show, Vision Awards producers are hoping to gain more support from the industry, including cable-network coverage of next year's show, which honors cable programming that reflects cultural diversity.

"We would like the industry to look at the Vision Awards as a showcase for programs that they spend millions of dollars to produce, but that often don't receive much recognition," Vision Awards co-producer Kyle Bowser said.

"NAMIC created the awards to praise the industry for what they've done and to encourage them to do more of it," added Bowser, who is president of independent production company Res Ipsa Media Inc.

Along with the traditional six categories representing the best in drama, news, comedy, children's entertainment, documentaries and music/variety, this year's show featured awards for best comedic and dramatic performance, NAMIC said.

Home Box Office took home the most awards, with three.

"We've done everything we can to ensure that this is clearly a celebration of multicultural performers," Vision Awards co-creator Gregory Amerson said.

While NAMIC received more than 163 entries from 21 networks, Bowser said he would like to see the industry produce even more multicultural-oriented shows.

To illustrate the paucity of such programming, Bowser said, the entries-which represented almost all of those networks' multicultural shows-cumulatively totaled 1/20th of 1 percent of those networks' programming hours when factored over one year's time.

"Clearly, there is a void when you consider the fact that all minority groups combined represent about 35 percent of the [U.S.] population," Bowser said. "But each year, the number of [entries] continues to increase."

MediaOne Group Inc. will distribute a tape of this year's event to its California systems. Amerson hopes other systems will also choose to carry the program via local-access channels.

And NAMIC has had "informal discussions" with several networks for a live telecast of the show-the only awards show that exclusively recognizes cable programming.

NAMIC honored National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president Kweisi Mfume with its "Quasar Award," given to an individual who has effected dramatic change in support of diversity within the telecommunications industry.

The NAACP days earlier released a critical report reprimanding the industry for below-average performance in hiring minorities in upper-management positions, as well as for its failure to effectively use minority vendors and to advertise in minority media outlets.

2000 NAMIC Vision Award Winners

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.