CTPAA Sessions Tackle Serious Tech Issues

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While cable operators and programmers have come a long way in introducing advanced products like video-on-demand, some feel cable public-affairs people need to make it easier for subscribers to understand the new technology.

That will be a key focus this week in Washington, D.C., where the Cable Television Public Affairs Association will hold its 19th annual conference.

“It’s one thing to talk about the technology products, but as communicators, we need to tell people how it affects them in their life,” CTPAA executive director Steve Jones said. “Unless people understand it, it’s not doing us any good.”

Last year’s conference drew 397 attendees. Jones said he expects this week’s gathering, running March 21 to 23 at the Fairmont Hotel, to be larger.

About two-thirds of attendees are cable operators, including corporate and system-level public affairs and media-relations pros, Jones said. Others work for cable networks or technology providers such as Motorola Inc. and Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

Monday’s opening general session will feature current Comcast Corp. adviser and former Pentagon and National Cable & Telecommunications Association spokeswoman Torie Clarke moderating a panel. On the panel: Scripps Networks affiliate sales and international development president Susan Packard, TV One CEO Johnathan Rodgers, Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. CEO Josh Sapan, Charter Communications Inc. CEO Carl Vogel and Insight Communications Co. CEO Michael Willner.

CTPAA will run breakout sessions Monday on financial communications; selling through public relations; education partnerships; ethnic markets; and government, employee and community relations.

NCTA chief Robert Sachs is scheduled to give the opening keynote on Tuesday, followed by a general session on technology and consumer electronics featuring Cox Communications Inc. senior vice president Dallas Clement, Time Warner Cable vice president Charles Haugabrook and Consumer Electronics Association vice president Jeff Joseph.

C-SPAN chairman Brian Lamb is scheduled to interview Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt during a luncheon on Tuesday.

Breakout sessions that day include panels on cable theft; crisis communications; media relations; and operators and programmers “working toward a common goal” on local promotions.

Cable Positive, the industry’s AIDS/HIV action organization, will conduct a panel on Tuesday afternoon. Time Warner Cable vice president Bonnie Hathaway will moderate a panel with Viacom Inc. manager Alyssa Goldberg; YES Network executive vice president Grace de Latour; Court TV vice president Jennifer Randolph; Cable Positive vice president Nancy Schadoff; and MTV director Ryan Siskow.