USC Professor's Diversity Research Group Rebrands as Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (Exclusive)

Stacy_L_Smith - Publicity - P 2017
Courtesy of USC

Executives from Disney, NBC, Sony, HBO, WME, Universal Music Group and other top entertainment companies will form a new advisory board for the think tank led by Prof. Stacy Smith.

USC Annenberg professor Stacy L. Smith’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, well known for its rigorous studies on representation in the film and television industry, is evolving.

The think tank is rebranding as the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and expanding to include music in its examination of representation in the entertainment business.

“’Diversity’ is just too small of a word,” Smith, who will remain founder and director of the newly named initiative, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Focusing on ‘inclusion’ more expansively fits the focus of what we’re trying to accomplish — [identifying] who is calling the shots from the C-suite all the way through all aspects of distribution and exhibition of artists’ work.”

Smith adds that calling the group an “initiative” is deliberate: “We don’t want to set up as a center or an institute, because that sounds like we’re permanent. The goal is to eradicate this problem and move on to something else.”

Universal Music Group is partnering with the initiative to launch its Music Coalition, the seeds of which were planted in conversations between Smith and UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge in summer 2016. “We’ve been on a listening tour, doing interviews across the music industry to understand the unique levers, obstacles and opportunities for women and underrepresented ethnic groups across four key silos,” Smith says, explaining that the coalition, supported by the Harnisch Foundation and Clif Bar Family Foundation, will examine the state of representation at record labels and publishing companies, agencies and management companies, recording studios and venues, as well as among artists and musicians.

“The launch of this project comes at a critical moment for women in music,” WME partner Samantha Kirby Yoh, who oversees the agency’s East Coast music team and has been advising the initiative, said in a statement. “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.”

As with the overall initiative, the Music Coalition will release studies throughout the year, with an initial report expected in February. “Our hunch is that music might lead inclusion efforts and serve as a wonderful platform to show film, television and digital how easy it is to move the needle by adopting solutions based on research to create strategic change,” says Smith.

Also coming in the first quarter of 2018 is the initiative’s first study focused on mental health portrayals in film, an expansion of its examination of disability representation that began in the last couple of years.

“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,” Willow Bay, dean of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said in a statement. “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.”

Kirby Yoh, along with Universal Music Publishing Group chairman and CEO Jody Gerson, are among more than two dozen entertainment executives to form a board of advisors for the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The full list is below.

USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Advisory Board:

Cinny Kennard, executive director, Annenberg Foundation
Leah Fischman, board chair, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative
Ivan Bart, president, IMG Models
Tena Clark, founder, CEO and chief creative officer, DMI Music & Media
Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, head of strategic outreach, Pearl Street Films
Julie Ann Crommett, vp multicultural audience engagement, The Walt Disney Studios
Kelly Edwards, head of talent development, HBO
Amy M. Emmerich, chief content officer, Refinery29
Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group
Donna Gigliotti, president, Tempesta Films
Karen Horne, senior vp programming talent development & inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios
Jennifer Justice, president corporate development, Superfly
Samantha Kirby Yoh, partner/music agent, WME
Kalpana Kotagal, partner, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC
Franklin Leonard, founder, The Black List
Gary Lucchesi, president, Lakeshore Entertainment; president, Producers Guild of America
Alana Mayo, creative executive
Hannah Minghella, president, Tri-Star Productions
Mauricio Mota, co-president and executive producer, Wise Entertainment
Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Thao Pham, vp community, Clif Bar & Company; executive director, Clif Bar Family Foundation
Gina Reyes, director content development, Story House Entertainment, Univision Communications
Brenda Robinson, director business development, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP
Carla Sacks, founder, Sacks & Co.
Cathy Schulman, president and CEO, Welle Entertainment; president, Women in Film Los Angeles
Nell Scovell, TV writer/creator
Phil Sun, partner/agent, WME
Lynette Howell Taylor, founder, 51 Entertainment
Julius Tennon, president development & production, JuVee Productions
Jacki Zehner, chief engagement officer, Women Moving Millions; president, The Jacquelyn & Gregory Zehner Foundation