×

Network Chiefs Talk Diversity at National Hispanic Media Coalition Confab

The heads of entertainment at ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC put aside network rivalries and took some time away from pilot season to talk about diversity in primetime as part of Thursday’s daylong conference hosted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

The confab at the Universal Hilton opened with the keynote panel featuring Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler, Fox Broadcasting COO Joe Earley and NBC Entertainment prexy Jennifer Salke.

During the session moderated by NHMC president and CEO Alex Nogales, the network chiefs stressed the importance of striving for diversity in TV programming and detailed their respective efforts to include Latinos in all aspects of the biz.

Tassler said diversity programs, such as those provided through the NHMC, are essential when it comes to helping to foster young writers.

“Getting those new voices the emphasis on cultivating the new talent in the diversity programs that we have…is the way to really incubate those new voices,” she said.

Tassler also stressed the need to “really putting the pressure on colleges and universities to create writing programs that speak to developing talent, diversity talent.”

Nogales spoke to the effectiveness of such programs and shared that 28 of the 111 students who have gone through the NHMC’s writing programs are now working writers in the industry.

Based on his experiences at Fox, Earley said he believes getting more diverse groups of people involved from all sides of a project is the way to create more sustainable diversity on TV. “We have to get closer to the source,” Earley said. “The diversity has to get closer to the genesis in order for it to really become systemic.”

Earley also explained how Fox has intensified its focus on diversity behind the camera, including writing staff and directors.

“If you are going to be creating a story that is diverse…we really feel that in order to be organic you have to have a diverse group of people creating (the project),” he said.

Lee cited Shonda Rhimes’ hit drama series “Scandal” as an example of a successful program that incorporates diversity, saying, “We’re immensely proud with what we’ve done with ‘Scandal,’ particularly in terms of diversity.”

In addition to “Scandal” star Kerry Washington, Lee also said ABC’s inclusion of figures such as “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara speaks to the network’s attention to its viewers.

“It completely reflects the fact that if you do not reflect the face of America you will not get the ratings,” Lee explained. “Anyone who says you cannot have a Latino lead or an African-American lead is now proven wrong. We’ve all proven that that actually drives audiences. It’s good for business as well as being the right thing to do.”

Salke said NBC insists on diverse casting and makes a point of stressing it with producers, even when some resist.

“They realize that it sounds ridiculous that they’re not going to insist on diverse faces in their cast. I think it’s changing, but we want all this stuff to happen faster,” Salke said.

After Nogales expressed his general disdain for commercials, Earley and the other panelist reminded him that reaching out to advertisers is an effective way of supporting shows that represent diversity.

Earley encouraged attendees to stand behind the programs they support by using every resource available.

“What I would love to see is when you like a program, when a program has either a showrunner or a writer or a talent that you believe is creating or providing a positive portrayal, that you martial your forces to ensure the success of that show,” Earley said. “To watch it, to tweet about it, to contact the advertisers who are in that show.”

The panel concluded with the execs offering advice to those looking to break into the biz. The tips include the importance of seeking internships and mentor relationships. Tassler cited the need to be open to opportunities and to hard work. She noted that the road to a career is “not always a direct path.”

Lee directed his advice specifically to the Hispanic community.

“I would so encourage this community, which is the fastest growing community in the U.S. and which is going to change the face of this nation over the next 20 years, to find your voice on our networks,” Lee said. “You have four people here who are encouraging you to get up and speak.”

(Pictured: Paul Lee, Nina Tassler, Alex Nogales, Jennifer Salke and Joe Earley)

More TV

  • Ricky Martin Celia Cruz Gloria Estefan

    From Idea to Legacy: Latin Grammy Awards Mark 20 Years of Global Recognition

    The idea of creating a separate organization to honor the diversity of Latin music was a discussion that took place for years before it actually happened, but an event driven by one of pop music’s most important crossover artists solidified it. During the 41st Grammy Awards ceremony, a young Ricky Martin was scheduled to perform [...]

  • Science Fair

    Disney Plus Fleshes Out Nonfiction Slate, Including 'Howard,' 'Science Fair,' Mickey Mouse Docu

    Disney Plus further fleshed out its nonfiction content slate at an International Documentary Association showcase event Friday, as the streamer, preparing for its Nov. 12 launch, continues to flesh out its programming strategy. Among the announcements: The streamer has acquired the global distribution rights to “Howard,” the Don Hahn-directed documentary about “Aladdin” and “Beauty and [...]

  • South Park Phone Destroyer

    Bidding War for 'South Park' U.S. Streaming Rights Could Hit $500 Million

    A bidding tussle for domestic streaming rights to Comedy Central’s long-running, irreverent animated series “South Park” may result in a deal as large as $500 million for cable parent Viacom and show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Bloomberg first reported news of the impending deal, pointing to a closing date as soon as this [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    AT&T's Ad-Tech Unit Xandr Buys Clypd To Help Place TV Commercials More Precisely

    Xandr, the AT&T ad-technology unit, has purchased a new company that helps advertisers use data to place commercials in front of the audiences most likely to want to watch them The AT&T division said Friday it had acquired clypd, a company that helps advertisers move forward in a growing desire by Madison Avenue to run [...]

  • HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE

    'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' Renewed for Season 2 at Disney Plus

    It may not have even premiered yet, but Disney Plus has handed out a second season renewal for “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” Inspired by the “High School Musical” movies, the series was created and is executive produced by Tim Federle, and stars Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Larry Saperstein, Julia [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Dickinson Premiere

    Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever. Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also [...]

  • Mackenzie Davis Himesh Patel

    Mackenzie Davis, Himesh Patel to Star in 'Station Eleven' Series at HBO Max

    Mackenzie Davis and Himesh Patel have been cast in the lead roles of HBO Max’s upcoming “Station Eleven” series adaptation. The show is based on the book of the same name by Emily St. John Mandel. Described as a postapocalyptic saga spanning multiple timelines, the series tells the stories of survivors of a devastating flu [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content