The numbers don’t lie: The San Diego television industry is still dominated by “good ol’ boys,” white, middle-age males.
Women and minorities are commonplace, working as reporters, producers, salespeople, janitors and receptionists. But after phone calls last week to the general managers of the local TV stations, it’s obvious that the holders of the top jobs in television management, the real power positions, are still noticeably male and white.
Of the 61 top management positions at the seven local stations, only four are held by blacks and only eight by Latinos. There are 18 women in management, but seven of them are employed at KTTY-TV (Channel 69), a small independent station which is largely owned by minorities, and four are at XETV (Channel 6). The other five stations employ a total of seven women in top management.
“I’m not sure why that is, except it’s obviously, to a large degree, a good ol’ boy thing,” said one woman manager, who asked not to be identified. “I can’t say how many times in my career I’ve sat in a department heads meeting and looked around the room to see I’m the only woman.”
While San Diego’s population is about 17% Latino, according to the San Diego Assn. of Governments, two stations, KUSI-TV (Channel 51) and KPBS-TV (Channel 15), don’t have a single Latino in management. At Channel 15, the public broadcasting station, of the seven top level managers there is only one woman and no Latinos and no blacks. (Of the eight Latinos in the 61 top positions mentioned in the survey, four are at Channel 69, which listed 15 management positions, compared to six to nine top level managers at other stations.)
Although some people may construe the numbers to be positive, representing a decent percentage of management, few minorities or women are in key, policy-making positions. Many of the women are in promotions or marketing. There is not a single minority or woman general manager running a San Diego television station.
Of course, all the local stations have vigorous minority hiring programs, a crucial part of the federal licensing process. And the number of women and minorities working in television has increased tremendously in the past decade.
However, as the survey indicates, women and minorities still have trouble making the jump into the mover and shaker roles.
“Overall in the industry, there is a reluctance” to promote women and minorities into upper management, said one woman manager, who asked not be named. “I don’t think there is a lack of representation in promotions and programming, but there is at the general manager level and above. I feel some steps have been taken in that direction, but not nearly enough.”
For the past year, KFMB-TV (Channel 8) has had the renewal of its operating license held up due to questions regarding its minority hiring practices. Several members of Channel 8 management refused to return numerous phone calls to discuss the station’s hiring practices. But according to sources, Channel 8’s top management team consists of eight people, of which one is a Latina and one is black.
The numbers are similar at San Diego’s two other network affiliates, the largest stations in town. At KGTV (Channel 10), there are nine management employees; two are women--one is the head of promotions and the other, a black woman, is in charge of the traffic division, which schedules the flow of shows and commercials on to the air. There is only one Hispanic in top Channel 10 management.
Asked about the numbers, Channel 10 general manager Ed Quinn grew defensive and listed a lengthy series of Channel 10’s minority hiring programs.
“You guys in newspapers, your record is terrible,” Quinn said.
To a degree, that is true. The lack of top-ranking minorities and women is hardly unusual in the media. Newspapers are constantly under fire for their hiring practices.
In San Diego radio, there are far more minorities involved than in television, simply because there are more stations, with a wider variety of ownership and formats represented. But there are only two women general managers in radio, and none of the major stations currently has a woman as a program director.
But television is the most visible and powerful medium, controlled by a much smaller group of individuals.
“There is not a conspiracy to keep (minorities and women) out,” said KNSD-TV (Channel 39) general manager Neil Derrough.
Of Channel 39’s eight department heads, one is a woman and one is Hispanic. There are no blacks on the Channel 39 management team.
Channel 39 had a woman as news director, Nancy Bauer, before she left two years ago for a job in Los Angeles, and women and minorities hold down several key newsroom positions at all the local news operations.
“I have a feeling there is a fairly decent women power base” in San Diego television, Derrough said.
But after all these years of Affirmative Action, consciousness raising and Alan Alda TV commercials, women and minorities still haven’t risen to the top in San Diego.
“It just takes time” for women and minorities to earn management positions, said Channel 51 general manager Bill Moore.
Station managers say women and minorities, for various reasons, often fall off the television ladder of success. Sometimes they just want more creative jobs, Derrough said. The general managers say it is often hard to find minorities and women to fill top level positions.
Irma Castro, director of the local Chicano Federation, doesn’t buy it. She thinks many leave because they see the proverbial writing on the wall, that they know there are few opportunities for minorities and women in management.
“There is a notion that somehow people of color can’t make it as department heads,” Castro said. “Whenever they are going to use a person of color it is for a position of no authority.”
Morale at Channel 8 took another nose dive last week, when it was announced that the plan for an afternoon talk show had been officially canceled.
The talk show was supposed to be the station’s big aggressive move into local programming, after it decided to put an end to “P.M. Magazine” two months ago. But Channel 8 management bungled the project from the start.
Of the 6 million perky talking heads in the United States, management tabbed “P.M.” co-hosts Dave Hood and Pat Brown to front the show. Then they said Hood was out. Hood said he had a verbal agreement and threatened to sue.
Channel 8 management clearly wasn’t 100% behind the concept, but there is speculation within the station that the threat of Hood filing a lawsuit was the last straw.
While the big thinkers at Channel 8 spent two months scratching their heads, trying to decide whether or not to do the show, several Channel 8 employees have been in limbo, wondering whether they would have jobs on the new talk show after Dec. 28, when “P.M.” is due to end.
Last week, word finally leaked that the show was officially canceled, just a Happy Holidays message from Channel 8 management to staff.
Meanwhile, Hood says he and Brown have reached a settlement for “a substantial amount.” He and Brown will remain a team, marketing themselves to local radio and TV stations, Hood said.