Victoria (Torie) Clarke is moving from the military battlefield to the public-relations minefield. The former Pentagon spokeswoman, who was credited with the plan allowing journalists to charge into Iraq with U.S. military forces, has decided to return to the cable industry, embedding as a paid adviser to Comcast Corp.
Clarke, who once served as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's top spokeswoman, signed on last Monday to help the No. 1 MSO "in the communications and government-affairs arena with other members of the cable industry," according to a Comcast statement.
An industry source said Clarke, who resigned her Defense Department post in June, is joining Comcast on Jan. 1 on a part-time basis. She will be based in Washington, D.C., and report to Philadelphia-based executive vice president David Cohen. Kerry Knott, who runs Comcast's D.C. office, also reports to Cohen.
"Torie brings to Comcast a depth of experience in communications and government, and enjoys a sterling national reputation as a trusted communicator. We're delighted that she has agreed to join the Comcast family," Comcast Corp. president and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.
Clarke said: "I am thrilled to be working for Comcast. I have enormous respect for Brian Roberts and the team he's built at Comcast, and I look forward to working with them as the company grows."
In recent months, Clarke has made regular appearances on CNN's Paula Zahn Now. Comcast did not require Clarke to give up that part-time job to join the company, a source said.
CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said she didn't see a conflict in working for Comcast and the cable-news outlet.
"Torie will not be commenting on issues related to Comcast or other cable issues and therefore we are comfortable with her current positions," Robinson said.
It's no surprise that Cohen, on whom Comcast has relied to beef up its Washington presence, decided to hire Clarke to help on the public relations front, where cable companies are repeatedly assailed for raising nominal rate hikes and failing to offer greater à la carte choices.
In interviews, Cohen has complained that cable's real story — including steady per-channel rates and the steady rollout of new products — is not being told effectively.
Damage control and image building are Clarke trademarks. She teamed with then NCTA-president Decker Anstrom to help repair the industry image after Congress passed the cable re-regulation law in 1992. The centerpiece of that effort was convincing cable companies to adopt better consumer service standards, including on-time appointment guarantees.
The industry showed that it could bounce back and regain credibility with Congress. In 1996, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a law that largely deregulated cable programming rates effective March 31, 1999.