It’s not often that you’ll see the big four networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox – working together, but this past Thursday, representatives from each network put the competition aside for a good cause. As part of the third annual National Hispanic Media Coalition MediaCon event, over 300 media entertainment executives and insiders met with Latino industry professionals and Latinos looking to break into the industry to discuss improving diversity efforts in media and entertainment.
Questioning why soap casts aren’t more diverse has been a long debated topic among soap fans. While some shows are better than others, and there certainly has been improvement over the years, some fans are still dissatisfied by the lack of minorities on their soaps. These fans will be interested to hear what the heads of entertainment at ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox had to say as part of their keynote address at the event.
“If you do not reflect the face of America, you will not get the ratings,” said Paul Lee, ABC Entertainment Group President (pictured above). “Anyone who says you cannot have a Latino lead or an African-American lead is now proven wrong.” ABC points to the success of shows like “Modern Family” (which features Colombian actress Sofia Vergara and Mexican American actor Rico Rodriguez) and “Scandal” (which stars African-American lead Kerry Washington) as examples of this.
Still, the network executives agreed that there is work to be done. Nina Tassler, CBS Entertainment Chairman and the first Latina to lead a network (pictured right), called for talent agencies, studios, and advertisers to work together to help create more opportunities for people of color. And NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke suggested a mentorship program that pairs up network executives and established showrunners with young Latinos looking to break into the industry.
So while the networks continue to try and improve diversity in front of and behind the camera, what can viewers do? Joe Earley, who is the Fox Broadcasting Chief Operating Officer, emphasized the importance of audiences continuing to hold the networks accountable on their diversity efforts. National Hispanic Media Coalition President and CEO Alex Nogales, who moderated the panel, pledged to mobilize the Latino community to support programs that include Latinos on-screen and behind the camera by commending advertisers for backing the shows. This will hopefully allow networks to produce more Latino-inclusive shows, if they have the support of advertisers.
The keynote address was only part of the day-long event held at the Hilton Universal Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Also included in the day’s events were panels intended to give Latinos the practices and tools necessary to break into and advance careers in the entertainment industry. “Reaching the Emerging Online Audience” and “Opportunities in TV Content and Programming” were just two of the many panels offered.
For more information on the National Hispanic Media Coalition, you can visit www.nhmc.org.