Cable Aids Katrina Victims

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How fitting it is that the cable industry will flock to New York this week for Diversity Week events, which will be held in the grisly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

At no time — perhaps only during the Civil War — have we seen the inequities of the haves and have-nots, or, more to the point, between white and black Americans. Just look at who’s left in New Orleans: By and large, it’s the African-American underclass, people who still don’t have the wherewithal to flee the disaster scene.

Diversity Week has always been a block of events set aside to raise consciousness as to the merits of bringing more people of color into the workplace, whether it’s creating entry-level jobs for the young or attracting more senior executives to the cable table.

This year, the event takes on an even more somber tone. The cornerstone of the week, the annual Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner, is sold out. Proceeds from that gala are meted out to worthy organizations like Women In Cable & Telecommunications, the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation.

But this year, given the devastation of Katrina, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association has created the “Cable Hope Fund” to help those who are still very much in need.

I applaud that NCTA initiative as much as I, like many others, deplore the ineptitude of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has proven itself to be in need of substantial reform.

The NCTA fund is being established to also help cable-industry employees — just think of the Cox Communications Inc. system in New Orleans — and all victims in the storm-ravaged areas.

So now the Cable Hope Fund is asking those who bought tables for the Kaitz dinner to match those contributions with donations to the fund.

This is truly the time for cable companies to dig deep. It isn’t just charity; it’s good business sense. Part of the Cable Hope Fund is the creation of a clearinghouse to collect information on housing and job opportunities to help the many cable employees who’ve been displaced by the hurricane.

I’m confident that, unlike FEMA, this cable-backed initiative will make fast progress.

Its six co-chairs are cable industry entrepreneurs who know how to make things happen. For example, Cox CEO Jim Robbins, is not one to let any grass grow under his feet. If anyone can get through the red tape that FEMA keeps spewing, it will be Robbins. If you’ve ever seen him boil — and I have — you know what I mean.

Then there’s MTV Networks chairman and CEO Judy McGrath, a powerful woman who has publicly gone on record about her fears of the Bush administration’s policies, particularly regarding free speech. I’d love to see her give FEMA an earful.

But let’s not play the blame game anymore. Enough. That’s been written about for weeks. Let’s band together and get help to the thousands who still need it.