Television has been blamed for a number of society's
problems, including the breakdown of family cohesiveness, crime and promiscuity. And, like
conduits such as the Internet, feature films and books,
television has the power to capture the minds and imaginations of Americans.
We in the cable television industry know that TV can be
good. We see how our dedication as an industry to ensuring that television is a positive
forum for discussion is making it even better. Last week's initiative focusing on the
best kids and family programming is further evidence of our commitment to consumers and
their community concerns.
After all, doing well in the cable industry is
intrinsically tied to doing good. Good work. Good programming. Good relationships. Good
By understanding and building lasting bonds with consumers,
we foster financial success, meeting -- sometimes even exceeding -- our stated business
Our persistent focus on customers and their communities has
certainly paid off in recent years, as revenues continue to hit new highs. Unfortunately,
our balance sheets tend to
receive more attention than our community service efforts.
And while it's easy to
understand why, it nonetheless is a shame that the good we
do is not often associated to the business success we achieve.
Television is our business; it is also our tool. Over the
past decade, we have actively sought to use this tool to address institutions and issues
of importance and respond,
responsibly, to consumer concerns. Since 1989, for example,
more than 8,500 cable operators and 38 cable programmers have invested over $500 million
in Cable in the Classroom, providing cable connections and commercial-free educational
programming to more than 78,000 schools and 41 million
As early as January 1993, we shared America's concerns
about violence on television and its impact on children, and assumed a lead role in
promoting critical viewing and providing useful tools --including the voluntary television
ratings system and v-chip technology -- to
parents to help them make better informed viewing decisions
for their families. In fact, our call for a voluntary ratings system came two years before
the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which instructed us to adopt a system
to work with the v-chip.
In the fall of 1994, we unveiled a far-reaching media
literacy program, forming a partnership between the NCTA and the National Parent Teachers
Association (PTA) to create The Family and Community Critical Viewing Project.
To reflect our commitment to helping consumers respond to
critical issues, in 1994 that same year, we agreed to forgo competitiveness in an effort
to call attention to television
violence -- launching Voices Against Violence Week. More
than 50 cable networks participated in the industry-wide initiative, running identical
programming that examined societal violence from a multitude of perspectives.
In April 1997, we did it again, dropping the mantle of
competitiveness to spotlight the importance of kids and family programming and critical
viewing. Tune In to Kids
and Family Week premiered with more than 75 national and
regional cable networks showcasing family-friendly programming throughout prime time and
community events, workshops and outreach efforts.
We acknowledged the power of industry-wide synergy and
service again with Tune In to Kids and Family Week II (June 8-14). Like its predecessor,
Tune In II involved 75 cable networks. It kicked off on June 8 with "Take A
Moment," an educational special combining music, humor and conversation between real
parents and kids to address family communication and how television impacts it. Aired on
29 networks simultaneously,
"Take A Moment" featured the multicultural youth
group CityKids, as well as celebrities, such as Danny Devito and Gregory Hines, relating
personal stories about family communication and the influence of TV on their lives. As
part of the Tune In II
initiative, National Critical Viewing Day was celebrated on
June 9, with legislators, policymakers, educators and parents participating in a special,
conference from Washington, DC, to unveil a new
children's media literacy component. In addition to this and the hundreds of hours of
family programming available to viewers during the week, cable systems nationwide
conducted local events and other activities to reinforce the industry's
interdependence with consumers and its leadership in opening
dialogue between parents and children.
Who we are is as important as what we do. We must continue
to take the power of our medium very seriously, particularly as the opportunities provided
by current and
emerging technologies call into question the responsibility
and liability of content providers on a national scale.
We as an industry must not only realize, but "take a
moment" to consciously recognize, that our community and public affairs efforts are,
like the television shows themselves, cri tical to our continued evolution and business
Josh Sapan is president and CEO of Rainbow Media Holdings
Inc., and Herb Scannell is president of Nick at Nite and TV Land