Politically Correct

By George Alexander

Name DeDe Lea
Title: Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Viacom Inc.
Location: New York, NY
Age: 43
Power Play: Balances the demands of corporate and congressional objectives
“I think when you micromanage, you stifle ideas. People feel free to come to me with ideas about what we should be doing or how to approach a certain member of Congress. They’re all professionals, and at the end of the day, they all get their jobs done.”

How do you navigate the dynamic worlds of media and politics?
Washington and Hollywood are both company towns. My division at Viacom deals with governmental policies and issues, while Hollywood is in the business of entertainment. Relationships are very important to both regions, which mean the towns are very similar. I think that’s why so many Hollywood types are interested in what’s going on in Washington and vice versa.

We live in an interesting media climate. We’ve had Don Imus, Congressional hearings on hip-hop, and picketing at BET CEO Debra Lee’s home. How do events such as these affect your job?
They impact my job directly. Our CEO, Philippe Dauman, testified at the Congressional hearings, so our job was to make sure he was fully prepared. Clearly, because Debra Lee is in Washington, picketing at her home also impacts me, because I have to watch for any spillover effect. Policy makers are paying attention because many of the people involved are their constituents; we pay attention to events to which they are attentive.

How do you advise the CEO on matters such as the recent hearings?
Much comes down to relationships and strategy. In preparing, I focus on what we want members of Congress to know about this issue when the hearing is over and they leave that chair. Hearing preparations take an inordinate amount of time, particularly when the CEO is involved. You have to make sure your CEO is overly prepared, because you never know what issues a panel member will raise or what they’ll say.

What about the trend toward censorship and fining media companies?
We are in a marathon, not a sprint. In addition to day-to-day lobbying, much of what we do is connect the dots. We want to make sure, for example, that if a member of Congress has an interest in a particular issue, such as childhood obesity, Congress knows that Nickelodeon has been on the forefront of that issue for several years. There are times when liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans come together to encourage legislation or regulation in this area. We are constantly communicating with members on both sides of the aisle about the important implications that the First Amendment has on the legislative proposals they are considering.

What does it take to lead a team like yours?
All the people who work for me have had senior positions on Capitol Hill at some point in their careers. They’re really smart, and there is no need to micromanage them. I think when you micromanage, you stifle ideas. People feel free to come to me with ideas about what we should be

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