New York -- Cable Positive raised just over $1 million to
help the cable industry's fight against AIDS and HIV at its third annual benefit
dinner here last Monday.
The sellout crowd -- the nonprofit fund-raising
organization sold its last few seats on the day of the dinner -- came partly to honor
Disney/ABC Cable Networks president Anne Sweeney for years of service to the cause.
Sweeney was given the Joel A. Berger Award by dinner
co-chair Geraldine Laybourne, chairman of Oxygen Media Inc.
While not a black-tie event, the gathering resembled the
Walter Kaitz Foundation's annual benefit, also held here, which draws around 1,000
people and attracts a wide range of cable-industry executives.
In her acceptance speech, Sweeney challenged the industry
to "counter the growing belief that AIDS is no longer a menace to public health, and
that those who have it no longer need our help."
AT&T Broadband & Internet Services president Leo J.
Hindery Jr., who was honored at the 1998 dinner, unveiled a new programming initiative --
created through a partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People and DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. -- to help raise AIDS awareness in the
AT&T Broadband and Cable Positive will distribute the
shows in June for operators to run on local-origination and PEG-access (public,
educational and government) channels, Hindery said.
Cable Positive will ask cable networks to run new
public-service announcements unveiled at the dinner, including one encouraging viewers to
take AIDS tests, executive director Molly Padian said.
By last Tuesday, Cable Positive's board of directors
had already met to start planning next year's event.
Padian predicted that the board would have no trouble
finding another honoree because the industry is filled with leaders who are committed to
As one example, Cablevision Systems Corp. CEO James Dolan
has made Cable Positive's "AIDS in the Workplace" program mandatory at his
company, she said.
"It is important to see the level of support from the
top down," Padian said, and "to know that the CEOs want their employees to
support this organization."