FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf was honored with the Corporate Leadership Award at the T. Howard Foundation’s 24th Annual Diversity Awards Dinner on Wednesday, March 29, in New York. The fundraising event recognizes and celebrates industry leaders and companies committed to diversifying the media and entertainment industry. John was presented to the evening’s attendees by Emmy Award-winning actor Courteney B. Vance, who played the role of Johnnie Cochran in FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
During his remarks, John recounted how 18 months ago, FX found that 88 percent of its original-series directors were white men, which was incongruous with the fact that white men make up just 36 percent of the U.S. population.
“We decided to take concrete steps to radically and quickly increase the participation of underrepresented groups with the ranks of our directors,” John said. “And our guess was that doing so would improve the overall quality of our work. We were right.”
During the past year-and-a-half, FX has boosted the percentage of non-white-male directors from 12 percent to 57 percent. “After making this change, the overall quality of our episodes has gotten better, resulting in the FX networks breaking nearly every record in the history of basic cable for programming success, awards recognition and critical acclaim.”
John also looked back at his life journey and noted the advantages he received by being born a white, heterosexual male, which presented him with a simple choice: “I can continue to take the path of least resistance, bestowing the benefits of my advantages primarily on others who naturally cross my path, who not-so coincidentally also often share my gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity… Or, I can actually try to live up to the as-yet unfulfilled promise given to all Americans by our founding fathers in our Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and I will add women) are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among them Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’”
He challenged businesses to look for “merit that lies beneath the surface of a person’s ethnic, sexual or gender identity.”
“I have been proud to work with my FX colleagues and our many producers who have embraced our efforts to open doors for people who have been standing at the back of the line for too long,” John said as he thanked FX Networks head of current programming Jonathan Frank and his team for recruiting and promoting diverse talent.
John also praised 21CF Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, 21CF CEO James Murdoch and FOX Networks Group Chairman and CEO Peter Rice for their dedication to making sure the organization comprises colleagues from all walks of life.
“Now that we have shown that real, rapid and permanent change is possible, we challenge all of our competitors to catch us if they can.”
The T. Howard Foundation’s mission is to increase the diversity in the media and entertainment industry through a comprehensive recruiting program for diverse college students. Learn more about the nonprofit.