Dear Messrs. Goei and Albrecht,
As President and CEO of the National Urban League, a historic civil rights and advocacy organization, with 90 affiliates serving more than 2 million people in 36 states and the District of Columbia, I write to voice concern over the stalled negotiations, and subsequent removal of Starz and Encore from Altice USA’s offerings. We are concerned that the recent events between the parties will negatively impact the availability of diverse programing to cable subscribers and adversely affect supplier diversity in the entertainment industry. The National Urban League has long understood that the only way to be fully inclusive of our nation’s residents is to ensure that diversity is represented in all facets of American life, government and industry, including media and entertainment.
Beyond the impact that this dispute is having on Altice customers, the majority of whom live in New York and are no longer able to easily access original content from Starz, the National Urban League fears that the effects of this impasse is more far reaching. In a time where the nation has seen the success of many diverse TV programs, representation continues to be a pressing concern, particularly as it relates to content creation and the jobs and businesses required to support such projects.
As demonstrated in the 2017 “Hollywood Diversity Report,” by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, by successfully selling a “concept” for a show, a show’s creator sets in motion a host of production choices that have significant impact on the degree of diversity and representation in the creation of that show. Such impact ranges from staffing writers and casting, to hiring production crews. Therefore, the success of diverse programs not only affects viewers, but often determines the diversity of suppliers, content creators, producers and crew members. With only 7.5 percent of all cable shows created by minorities, the Urban League is greatly concerned when any of the few successful minority-created shows are pulled from television.
Power, which was created by a black woman, is an exemplar of this fact. In the five years since Starz has brought original series productions to New York City, shows like Power have brought approximately 18,000 local jobs and contributed millions to the economy. These jobs have gone to minority producers, directors, audio engineers, camera operators, craft services companies, makeup and wardrobe artists, and others needed to create a successful series.
As our nation continues to grow more diverse, it is imperative that we support existing shows and create new programming that ensures diversity in front of and behind the camera. Given the significance of this situation, the National Urban League urges both parties to continue to work together until a mutually-beneficial resolution that restores to Altice customers the content that they enjoy and guarantees the continuance of the supplier diversity they deserve.
Marc H. Morial
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Urban League