Cable operators, trade groups and networks were putting the
finishing touches last week on plans to promote Black History Month, which runs throughout
Cable in the Classroom programmers are making dozens of
movies, documentaries, dramas and biographies available to teachers looking for material
Topics run the range from literature, with a biography of
poet Maya Angelou on Lifetime Television; to music, with a profile of Ella Fitzgerald on
Ovation - The Arts Network; and even religion, with programs from Odyssey, A Henson &
Hallmark Entertainment Network.
History -- the subject and The History Channel -- is
well-represented, with shows on the Underground Railroad, slave ships and the Civil War.
Other networks participating in the CIC program for Black
History Month include Bravo, A&E Network, Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, The Learning
Channel, Showtime, Black Entertainment Television and Cable News Network.
Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting System Inc. networks
have their own educational initiative through Atlanta-based Turner Learning.
This year's Black History Month effort focuses on Turner
Network Television's original movie, Freedom Song. Scheduled to premiere Sunday,
Feb. 27, Freedom Song showcases grassroots organizers who risked their lives
registering African Americans to vote in the early 1960s.
"These kinds of docudramas reach students in a way
that textbooks just can't," Turner Learning senior vice president and general manager
Dr. John Richards said.
A number of TNT affiliates, including Comcast Corp. in
Detroit and Prime Cable in Chicago, plan to host educational screenings of Freedom Song
and hold panel discussions with local students, a Turner Learning spokeswoman said.
Richards said Turner Learning goes out of its way to make
sure the programming it shares with teachers is truly educational, rather than something
used to promote its networks.
Turner Learning is making a 12-page educators' guide --
complete with curriculum notes on Freedom Song and an interactive CD-ROM --
available to 10,000 teachers. The deadline for requests is today (Jan. 31). Curriculum
notes will also be available on the organization's Web site (learning.turner.com).
In addition to Freedom Song, Turner Learning is also
highlighting five CNN Newsroom programs with topics including Afrocentric education, as
well as perceptions of beauty among African-American women and teen-agers.
AT&T Broadband & Internet Services' Pittsburgh
system decided to honor Black History Month by running AIDS-awareness programming in
February, according to regional director of communications Dan Garfinkel.
The system sent invitations to local community leaders in
the health care and religious communities last week for a special preview screening.
Garfinkel said AT&T Broadband hopes to create grassroots awareness for the
commercial-free programming, which airs on two successive weekends in mid-February. On-air
promotions are scheduled to start tomorrow (Feb. 1).
The National Cable Television Association and the National
Association of Minorities in Communications recently partnered on a community-relations
effort called "Cable in Focus: Diversity."
The partnership encourages local screenings of recommended
diversity-themed programming, including The Color of Friendship from Disney
Channel, Same Difference from Fox Family Channel, The Wishing Tree from
Showtime and Freedom Song.
Starz Encore Media Group LLC's BET Movies started signing
up cable operators to participate in its Black History Month affiliate campaign early last
month. BET Movies will provide customizable direct-mail pieces to affiliates highlighting
featured February programming, including recent hit Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey
and Danny Glover, and 1930s film Zou Zou, starring Josephine Baker.
The network is also asking its affiliates to run
cross-channel spots to drive tune-in, according to BET Movies and Starz Encore director of
multicultural marketing Andrew Givens.
In addition, BET Movies is running a
customer-service-representative incentive program, giving CSRs a chance to win a trip to
Las Vegas if they say the words "BET Movies celebrates Black History Month" when
mystery callers phone in.
Yolanda King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and
Coretta Scott King, will host BET Movies' focus on Black History Month. The campaign is
dubbed "A Century Rich with Color." King will appear in promotional
interstitials and introduce featured movies throughout February.
Phylicia Rashad will host a monthlong special on Courtroom
Television Network, "Great Legal Minds in African-American History." The
network's Black History Month coverage includes that series of vignettes on the legal
profession, as well as a special edition of Crime Stories, "Who Killed Martin
Luther King Jr.?" Feb. 4.
On the MSO side, Comcast will promote Black History Month
with a direct-mail piece to several-million homes in its urban markets. The campaign will
showcase programming from Home Box Office, Showtime and Starz Encore premium channels
geared toward the African-American community.
In Detroit, "We celebrate the whole month," a
spokesman for Comcast's Detroit system said. In addition to four movie screenings that the
operator sponsors locally, Comcast will air 30-second vignettes honoring Detroit
historical figures of African descent.
And a highlight of the system's Black History Month
celebration is a contest that awards a subscriber with a trip to the African coast.