In the Vanguard

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I must say that this year's crop of "Vanguard Award" winners is a pretty impressive lot, honoring established leaders who have also embraced the technologies of the future.

But at the risk of ticking off just about everyone-including this year's winners, the National Cable Television Association and its 10-member selection committee that calls the shots-something is out of whack here.

This year's winners look like a love-fest of pole climbers, especially so in this day of consolidation, where one-half of the cable industry is now owned by so-called outsiders and it has been for a while.

This year's winners are all dyed-in-the-wool cable veterans. By no means am I diminishing their hard-earned awards. But I would suggest at this point in time to whomever serves on next year's selection committee that they look beyond the obvious and include some of the superstars from the new crowd-if there are any-in the mix.

After all, if you want to embrace the newcomers to cable-and, face it, it's been rocky-while trying to preserve some semblance of this industry's unparalleled collegiality, you must welcome them to the table.

Of course, the big question is: Are there any superstars from the new crowd who are having an impact yet? But that's another subject for another column

The Vanguard Awards, for those who might not know, are actually a very big deal. Recipients proudly display these trophies in their offices and immediately tack on that significant accomplishment to their resumes. It's like displaying an Oscar.

The awards are the creation of the NCTA, and they are intended to honor the hard-working women and men in this industry for their unstinting business and personal contributions to their companies and the industry as a whole.

It's such a big honor that I've seen at least one of the most jaded veterans have to guzzle down several martinis to calm her nerves before getting on stage to accept this award. And I've also seen winners fill their tables with family members because they are so proud to have received the industry's highest award. That's how big of a deal this is.

In other words, as far as industry awards go-and God knows we have a ton of them-the Vanguards are cable's Olympic gold medals.

Soon, the NCTA will be doling them out again during the National Show, which will be held next month in New Orleans. And as always, the scheduling is a little funky, tacked on to the very end of the convention. In other words, not many attendees hang around to witness this very important ceremony.

And that's too bad. Frankly, I'm beginning to worry if these awards are going to languish and go away like the CableACEs and the state and regional association shows that are all under the gun.

I keep hearing these wistful remarks that the cable industry is no longer the same. Of course it's not. But it's time to let go of the past and get on with the here and now. It's time to embrace the newcomers-they are, after all, your owners-and make them understand this wonderful business that they spent big bucks to get into.

I know firsthand all about new owners. During my 10-year stint here, Multichannel News has had four different owners. Each time, we have had to educate them about our business and encourage them to become a part of the community that we cover.

It ain't easy. All of our new owners-like yours, initially-had little interest in becoming a part of cable's fabric. But they did show up at events when it suited their purposes, schedules and wallets. And in time, they saw the merit of belonging.

But back to the Vanguards. I hope this year's ceremony isn't a snore because it would be so unfair to this year's great winners, who have contributed so much to cable's success.

And I hope I don't miss all of the spirited and passionate grumbling that goes on at these ceremonies about why one person was picked over another for any given category. I would truly miss all of the catty remarks, like, "That SOB never did anything unless it advanced his own personal career." That's how charged up people get over the Vanguards.

Winning this award truly enables people and makes them soar even higher. It's all about excellence. But it's up to you to make your new owners know that this prestigious award is just as important as their bottom-line results. After all, the Vanguard winners are the people who have contributed to their bottom lines.

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