Systems Embrace Black History Month


A number of cable operators, looking to improve community
relations and to reach out to minority audiences, are creating local events around Black
History Month cable-programming celebrations.

Many operators are taking advantage of the National
Association of Minorities in Communications' initiative, 'Cable in Focus:
Diversity,' which recognizes diverse cable programming. More than one-dozen
networks' programming related to Black History Month is offered in the initiative,
which also provides operators with materials highlighting shows targeted toward ethnically
diverse audiences, said representatives from NAMIC and the National Cable Television

Tele-Communications Inc.'s Baltimore system, for
example, will offer a screening of Home Box Office's Three Little Girls as
part of an overall community initiative during the month. The VIP screening, which will
include politicians and local dignitaries, will launch a scholarship program developed
between the system, Coppin State University and a local church, said Marvin Wambles,
executive communications director for the 112,000-subscriber system. The college and TCI
will offer four $500 scholarships to members of the Bethel AME church.

In addition, the system will use local radio and
African-American targeted newspapers to promote the effort.

'It gives us an opportunity to do something like this,
because [HBO] provides strong product that serves as an excellent vehicle to reach out to
the community with,' Wambles said.

MediaOne's Atlanta system is offering screening of
several programs -- both originally produced and from networks -- throughout the month,
said Kevin Rye, the system's community-relations manager. The system will offer a
screening of Showtime's The Sweetest Gift at Spelman College Feb. 11, which
will include a panel discussion with MediaOne Cub Reporters, former United Nations
ambassador Andrew Young and Coretta Scott King, Rye said. Other events include weekly
installments of the system's self-produced interview show, MediaOne Spotlight,
featuring attorney Johnnie Cochran, singer Gladys Knight and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

Further, the network is a sponsor of Turner Broadcasting
System Inc.'s annual Trumpet Awards, which recognize excellence within the
African-American entertainment and political community.

Staten Island Cable will also offer screenings of Three
Little Girls
to local schools as part of its Cable in the Classroom efforts, said Erin
Devine, marketing supervisor for the system. The nearly 104,000-subscriber system, along
with HBO, will offer a sweepstakes in which the winning student will receive a $1,000
bond. To enter, students have to illustrate how they felt about the movie and what can be
done to foster better relations among people, Devine said. The child's school will
receive a television and a VCR.

Further, S.I. Cable will hand out to schools the NCTA/NAMIC
'Kids & Cable: Celebrating our Diversity' pamphlet, which highlights shows
from several networks that celebrate Black History Month, as well as March's
Women's History Month and St. Patrick's Day.

'We feel pretty positive that we'll get a
positive response from the schools,' Devine said. 'We always try to work with
the schools, particularly with our Cable in the Classroom initiatives.'

Sharon Radziewski, assistant director of public affairs for
the NCTA, said the organization is encouraged by operator participation, and it is looking
forward to working with the industry to develop awareness for diversity programming beyond
Black History Month. 'The diversity theme celebrated educational cable programming
that focuses on the multiplicity of cultures in our country, with an emphasis on black
heritage in February and women's history in March,' she said.