Backtalk: Cable Positives Track Record


With all of the intriguing talk going on about whetherAT&T will wind up getting MediaOne, or whether it will be Comcast in combo with awhite knight, it's sometimes all too easy to forget about more important andlife-threatening issues.

Of course, the MediaOne deal was the buzz circulatingthroughout the cavernous ballroom at the New York Marriott Marquis, where Cable Positiveheld its annual fund-raiser.

The industry showed its human side last week, as some 1,000cable executives made the trek to the Big Bad Apple to show their support for CablePositive, the industry's nonprofit, fund-raising organization formed to combat AIDS.

The annual dinner, now it its third year, raised $1,086,750last week. But here's the best part: A staggering 84 percent of that sum will go directlyto the cause, with the remaining 16 percent allocated for administrative and other coststhat the fledgling organization incurs.

It's amazing how much such a little outfit can do, and muchof the credit for this group's success should go to Molly Padian, a young woman who beganas a consultant to the group in 1994, and who is now its executive director.

The numbers speak for themselves. Look at what CablePositive raised last week, and compare that with the $141,000 that it raised in 1993:That's a track record.

But Padian is not one to hog the spotlight, and shelavishes praise on member companies like HBO, Showtime and now E! EntertainmentTelevision, which have all provided office space and services free-of-charge for theorganization during the past four years

Last week's sellout dinner feted Anne Sweeney, president ofDisney/ABC Cable Networks. Geraldine Laybourne, chairman of Oxygen Media and longtimementor to Sweeney, presented her with the Joel A. Berger Award.

Berger was the publisher of Multichannel News and Cablevisionmagazine who lost his protracted battle with AIDS four years to the day of last week'sCable Positive dinner, April 26.

Clearly, Cable Positive does plenty of things right, butone of the things that it does best is to make sure that whomever gets the award hasactually done something to deserve it -- ergo, not just thrown money at the cause.

Sweeney, for example, has been involved with Cable Positivefor many years. At her previous job at FX, Sweeney held three silent auctions for thecause on her network and online service, raising $55,000 each time.

And while at FX and now at Disney, Sweeney has implementedthe organization's "AIDS in the Workplace" seminar, actually making it mandatoryfor all employees to attend.

In addition, Disney has created special programming forWorld AIDS Day, under Sweeney's stewardship

Actually, it's been amazing to see the organization growand spread its sphere of influence. Padian said Cable Positive created a new goal lastyear: to grab onto a national organization in order to be more effective in combating thedisease. In other words, why go it alone?

So at last week's gala, AT&T Broadband & InternetServices president Leo J. Hindery Jr. took the wraps off a new venture that his companyhas created with the NAACP and Dupont Pharmaceuticals to help raise AIDS awareness in theAfrican-American community.

During a speech, Hindery implored other cable operators toair these shows on their local-origination and PEG-access channels. AT&T Broadband andCable Positive will distribute the shows in June to all operators that want them.

So if you think that AIDS is not your problem, think aboutthese cable-industry numbers that Padian shared with me for just the month of March 1999.

Padian said that last month alone, 27 people from the cableindustry -- yes, your industry -- were receiving assistance from Cable Positive. They aremen and women from major markets like New York and from smaller locales in Texas andFlorida.

They come from all sectors of the business: cable networks,cable systems and cable installers. And Cable Positive is there to help not just them, butmembers of their families who have this fatal disease.

The cable industry, which has often struggled with imageproblems, can certainly take pride in the creation of Cable Positive.