Caring. Compassion. Kindness. Unconditional support. Thisis the work of Cable Positive.
When the industry gathers this Wednesday for CablePositive's Second Annual Benefit Dinner at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, theresultant gala will be the kind of team effort that shows what cable can accomplish whenwe rally together behind a noble cause.
More than 1,000 guests will attend, most of them members ofan industry that, through Cable Positive, has embraced the challenges and tribulationspresented to our beloved friends in the industry that are suffering from AIDS.
Dinner guests will not only be treated to the Radio CityRockettes -- courtesy of our friends James L. Dolan and Cablevision Systems Corp., proudowners of Radio City Music Hall -- but they will be present to watch our own buddy, Leo J.Hindery Jr., be honored with this year's Joel A. Berger Award.
Named for the former group publisher of MultichannelNews and Cablevision magazine, who died of AIDS in 1995, the award is given toan individual or company within the cable industry that most significantly supports thegoals of Cable Positive.
This year, the award recognizes Leo as the embodiment ofcable's conviction that we have the ability and the responsibility to create AIDS and HIVinitiatives that benefit both the general public and members of the industry itself.
As with other causes throughout his life, Leo has stoodtall at the forefront of compassion and fairness in the battle against AIDS, long beforethat fight was fashionable.
As both an honorary chair of Cable Positive and the dinnerchair for this week's event, I am well aware that active participation by the industry'sleaders is critical to the success of the organization.
Leo's zeal in making Cable Positive's activities anintegral part of the Tele-Communications Inc. family's operations has set a standard thatall of us in the industry strive to match. Leo's support for Cable Positive has beenboundless. He has taken the time to not only help develop strategy for the organization,but to help it grow, as well.
Thanks to Leo's urging, Cable Positive's "Take Care ofOur Own" initiative grew to greater heights in the past year, when the Cable PositiveFinancial Assistance Program was expanded to better assist industry employees.
Through this fund, confidential financial assistance isgiven to current and former industry employees who are living with HIV/AIDS. Funds can beutilized for the new protease inhibitors and other medications, health-insurance premiums,rent, utilities and travel.
Also as a result of Leo's call to action, for the firsttime, if an immediate family member or domestic partner of a cable employee is living withHIV or AIDS, they are eligible for the fund, as well. Remarkably, since the programexpanded in September, the Cable Positive Assistance Fund has tripled the number of grantsgiven to cable employees and their partners.
As another part of the "Take Care of Our Own"initiative, Leo is a leader in ensuring that his employees have the necessary education sothat they, their families and their friends have the knowledge to protect themselves fromthe spread of HIV. Furthermore, instead of just endorsing Cable Positive's "AIDS inthe Workplace" seminars, in January, Leo had 15 TCI employees receive training tofacilitate these workshops. In the first two months of 1998 alone, TCI held more"AIDS in the Workplace" seminars than all other cable companies combined in1997. In addition, TCI, under Leo's direction, has led the way in promoting andunderstanding diversity in the workplace. He is a fine example for all of us to follow.
Leo rightly deserves to be saluted for all of the above.
But when he receives the accolades of Cable Positive andthe industry Wednesday night -- an honor that I know he is accepting reluctantly, due tohis own desire not to seek personal aggrandizement -- his friends have prevailed upon himto lead the way in helping others in our industry to understand Cable Positive's mission.
Last year's inaugural dinner, chaired by Request Televisionpresident and CEO Hugh Panero and honoring former Time Warner New York City Cable Grouppresident Richard Aurelio, set the fund-raising standard for Cable Positive by drawing 780guests and netting more than $260,000.
It is a tribute to the success that Leo Hindery has had inspreading the Cable Positive gospel -- not only in TCI, but throughout the entire cableindustry -- that this year's sold-out dinner will raise more than $1 million, almost fourtimes last year's net. For their extraordinary assistance in reaching this plateau, Iwould like to personally thank the special dinner benefactors who really came through forLeo and Cable Positive: Barry Diller, James Dolan, John Egan, Jeff Sine, Haim Saban and,of course, John Malone.
This year's dinner is totally underwritten, so 100 percentof your contributions go directly to people in need. The money raised will be used indramatic ways around the country. Thanks to the efforts of the board and of executivedirector Molly Padian, Cable Positive has grown rapidly into an action group for theindustry.
Each year, the list of accomplishments grows longer:
Cable Positive coordinates the industry'sparticipation in AIDS public-awareness campaigns during World AIDS Day Dec. 1 and Day ofCompassion June 19.
To date, Cable Positive has held more than 1,000"AIDS in the Workplace" seminars, sponsored by America's Health Network.
Cable Positive also presents the Brad WojcoskiAward, granted to the party that has contributed most significantly to the fight againstAIDS in their community.
Using the money raised at last year's dinner, CablePositive distributed over
$150,000 in grants through the Tony Cox Fund to a total of40 local systems, public-access producers and local AIDS organizations, with another$150,000 allocated for disbursement this year.
Another $120,000 in grants were distributed to localnonprofit organizations providing AIDS education, research and care.
Additionally, Cable Positive issued a grant to my friend,Dr. David Ho, Time
magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1996, for hisresearch and clinical studies on new HIV drug therapies.
Cable Positive has provided funds for The Jerry HartmanResidence. Named after a Universal Pay TV employee and Cable Positive supporter who diedof AIDS in 1995, the residence provides "family-style" care for 12 personsliving with AIDS.
Cable Positive produces and distributes hundreds ofpublic-service announcements to the cable industry's programming community, with a brandnew reel coming out in May.
Clearly, Cable Positive is doing great work in the fightagainst the spread of AIDS. In spite of all the good news, however, we must not forget whywe are gathering this Wednesday.
Despite euphoric talk of advances in treatment and even"cures," AIDS is not over.
To date, more than 400,000 Americans have died because ofAIDS, and close to 1 million, or one in 300 Americans, are currently HIV-positive.
The numbers globally are even more drastic.
There is no vaccine yet -- no magic bullet that will put anend to the disease.
Even the very encouraging protease-inhibitor treatments,while a step forward, come with enormous physical and financial price tags, they do notwork for every person and, in the end, they are not the cure that we seek.
According to our close friend, Dr. Mathilde Krim, foundingco-chair and chairman of the board of AmFAR, these chemical "cocktails" onlyprevent the disease from spreading in about 70 percent of AIDS cases, and they are sotoxic that no one has any idea of the long-term effects. The "cocktails" arealso having the dangerous effect of creating a false impression that AIDS is"cured," causing a drop-off in safer-sex practices. As I have said, the battleis far from over.
What can we do as an industry?
Leo Hindery has already set the standard. He has challengedthe entire industry to actively work to not only raise public consciousness of this issue,but to remember to "Take Care of Our Own." He puts his actions where his wordsare, too, helping to mold Cable Positive into a dynamic, proactive group and committinghis own company to the cause.
Caring. Compassion. Kindness. Unconditional support. Thisis the work of angels.
I am grateful that Leo will be on the side of the angelswhen we join together Wednesday night.
Marc Nathanson is chairman and CEO of Falcon Cable TV Corp.He is on the board of governors of AIDS Project Los Angeles, and he has been an activebenefactor of the American Foundation for AIDS Research since 1986.