The leading global research and advocacy think tank directed by Professor Stacy L. Smith at USC Annenberg announced the launch of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Building on the success of the groundbreaking Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, a driving force in the effort for more diversity both on screen and behind the camera, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will represent a broader mission that will include music. A new advisory board has been appointed to reflect the initiative's expanded mandate.
"Our new name reflects our continued and unwavering commitment to championing inclusion in all forms – including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, disability and now mental health – across the media industry at a time when the climate makes it clear that our solutions are more needed now than ever," said Dr. Smith, the Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. "We are eager for companies and individuals to work with us to understand where there are glaring inequities and determine how best to solve them."
"The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is a leader in addressing inequality in entertainment and by expanding their work to include examinations of mental health in storytelling and inequality in all aspects of the music industry, its work will continue to be the gold standard," said USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay. "Combining its track record of excellent work with Dr. Smith's innovative solutions, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will be a true force for industry change."
Board of Advisors appointed
In addition to a new name, the Initiative announced the formation of a Board of Advisors. The more than two dozen appointees, including leaders from top entertainment companies such as The Walt Disney Studios, NBC Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO, and WME, as well as notable foundations, will provide the Initiative insight and guidance.
Universal Music Group (UMG), the world's leading music company, will participate in the initiative. Representing UMG on the advisory board will be Jody Gerson, the Chairman and CEO of the company's publishing division, Universal Music Publishing Group. Gerson said, "These are critical issues to address in our society and in our industry, and this is a crucial time to address them. While I'm proud of the progress we're making within our company, there remains much work to do and I'm honored to be appointed to join this impressive group to help tackle those challenges."
"I am excited to join this group and raise the consciousness around inclusion and diversity. Inclusion is of great importance, and we must come together as a community to collectively implement change," said Julius Tennon, President, Development & Production, JuVee Productions and one of the new Advisory Board members.
Broadened focus includes music
As part of its broadened mission, the Initiative launched The Music Coalition to cover issues of inclusion in music. The Music Coalition is generously supported by The Harnisch Foundation and Clif Bar Family Foundation. The vision of the Coalition is a first-ever effort to combine research, industry participation and advocacy to study inclusion in music and work towards creating measurable change for representation of women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups across all facets of the music business.
"Our goal is not only to create more opportunities for today's recording artists, songwriters and music business executives, but also to ensure a pathway for the next generation of women and underrepresented talent to enter into successful careers where they can make a difference," said Dr. Smith. "Our conversations with industry insiders indicate that while the music industry suffers from inclusion deficits, especially for women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, leaders such as Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge, recognize the importance of issues of inclusion, and have demonstrated enthusiasm and readiness to tackle them. We're thrilled that conversations with Sir Lucian that began over a year ago, have now yielded this exciting partnership."
"The launch of this project comes at a critical moment for women in music. While we have made progress, we still have work to do and my hope is that this study will encourage further dialogue about how we continue supporting women in our business at all levels, from artists to executives," said advisory board member Samantha Kirby Yoh, partner who oversees WME's East Coast music team. The Coalition will release new research throughout the year, with an initial report anticipated in February of 2018, along with an announcement of the leading companies participating in this effort.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative releases an annual study, most recently Inequality in 900 Popular Films, and in 2016 compiled the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD), which ranked media companies on their inclusion records. The Initiative conducted three years of research on barriers facing female directors in partnership with Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles. Dr. Smith recently delivered a TED Talk, discussing nearly a decade's worth of the Initiative's independent research into top-grossing films. Finally, the Initiative has been at the forefront of launching solutions that address Hollywood's epidemic of inequality.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will continue to produce yearly reports on representation in film, conduct other studies on topics related to diversity and inclusion and craft solutions to inequality in entertainment. The Initiative is currently completing an analysis of the portrayal of mental health in top films from 2016.