Comcast, CN8 Toast Philly Newsmakers

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Comcast Corp. and regional channel CN8: The Comcast Network plan to celebrate "the year of the child" Tuesday (Oct. 3) at the second annual Comcast Newsmakers of the Year Awards Ceremony in Philadelphia.

The gala will honor 11 local leaders in the arts, education, business, government and other areas of influence. U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) will receive a lifetime achievement award, and legendary saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. will be honored with a special posthumous award for the arts.

An advisory board chooses the nominees and award winners each year over a period of several months, said Michael Doyle, the Comcast Cable Communications East-West division president who created both the Newsmakers on-air interstitials 15 years ago and the awards ceremony last year.

Comcast participates in the process, but most decisions are made by people who don't work for the MSO, Doyle said.

The operator expects to draw 500 attendees to the awards ceremony, which will air later as a two-hour special on CN8, a 24-hour regional network that reaches about 3.9 million homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Doyle said he hopes the special will encourage viewers to become more involved in their own communities.

The award winners are just a few of the hundreds of local leaders who appear on the five-minute Comcast Newsmaker segments, which run twice an hour on CNN Headline News. Doyle said the short-form productions give community leaders that might not be able to carry off a full hour or half-hour show a chance to get their message out on-camera.

The local celebrities can be in and out of the Comcast studio in about half an hour, Doyle said. Facilities are located across a number of communities in the region.

In the greater Philadelphia area, for example, there are Newsmaker studios and production teams in Doylestown, Pa.; Trenton, N.J.; Northeast Philadelphia; Center City Philadelphia; and Cherry Hill, N.J. The operator also recently expanded the service to Delaware to "unbelievable" viewer response, Doyle said.

The network is producing a six-week series called "Election Watch," designed to give every local candidate in the region a chance to be heard. Because the segments are delivered via fiber, the spots can be targeted toward the neighborhood level, if needed, or broadcast throughout a given state for statewide elections.

"If we do things like this in the community, it's a way to give back," Doyle said. "People respect companies that do give back."

A number of cable networks, including Bravo, Cable News Network, Discovery Channel, Independent Film Channel, Game Show Network, VH1, Showtime, Starz! and Techtv are co-sponsoring the event.

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