The following is an excerpt of an acceptance speech given by Henry Schleiff, chairman and CEO of Court TV, who was one of two executives to receive the President's Award at last week's Cable Television Public Affairs Association Beacon Awards dinner in Washington, D.C.
It is a real privilege to appear with a gathering of probably the most passionate, dedicated and caring people anywhere in the media. I am proud to be a part of an industry like cable that is recognized for its unequaled support for diverse programs and initiatives providing valuable public-service outreach. Moreover, the suggestions and new ideas you have shared will, no doubt, contribute significantly to our ability to maintain cable's position as both
the moral and financial leader in the field of telecommunications.
All of us in this room know that we don't have to do public service. We don't have to go into neighborhoods and encourage better education, promote health care or teach tolerance and understanding. Why do we – why do you – participate and pursue these causes: quite simply, because you choose to. I have some idea of the sacrifice and effort those here make every day, and it is not unreflective of Winston Churchill's observation that "we make a living by what we get, but we make a life … by what we give." Those who receive this award, in senior management, like myself, do so merely on behalf of those, in the field, like you, who make the real
contributions. It is we, who should give this award to you, because it is we who should appreciate and, indeed, should be inspired by what you do.
We must all
recognize that public service is important from a number of perspectives: its impact is felt in both karma and dollars. Indeed, the legacy of the vast array of programs represented here will live on long after most, if not all, of the shows and series that can be seen on any given network. I particularly value what people do in this area because, quite frankly, I am a product of the Kennedy 1960s. I bought the ideal of contribution and, in fact, it has served me well; it has served Court TV well, and hopefully it serves you, because through your efforts, public service puts this industry in the best possible light, especially in these dark and troubled times.
Activists for change
In a world where we correctly criticize much of what we see on television — and in a business where we are struggling with customer service and competition, the one real,
indisputable "Beacon" of success in every
corner — and, by any
measure, is the diverse and important work that people in public affairs do every day.
Cable, like any service industry, often gets a black eye. But because of your words
and, more importantly, your deeds,
you are the people who ameliorate those complaints and put this industry in the enviable position of being community activists for positive social change.
Not only is what you do substantively important, but it is also well-communicated to our audiences – both viewers of our programming and, more generally, subscribers who live in our communities of service. Oddly enough, the only ones who sometimes have trouble hearing your message and understanding its importance are those often responsible for the purse strings. The irony is that we must all do a better job in communicating the legitimate success and importance of our work, not externally, outside our company, but rather, to those in the executive suites. Not only because all of us here are on the side of right, but also because, in the end, this is also very much in the best economic interests of our companies. We can do well by doing good, we can
do "well," financially, by doing "good," morally. In that regard, public-affairs efforts are among the most distinctive and beneficial qualities of cable systems and their programming. Why: because you live where the rubber meets the road. You live where the cable operator or cable network meets the customer or viewer; you are part and parcel of the communities in which you serve; and given your work, this industry simply could not ask for better representatives.
We take great pride in our commitment to public service at Court TV because we
understood the power of the medium of television and the potential for good that a network like ours can play.
With our experience in creating quality educational initiatives, and with the support and partnership of our cable affiliates, we are increasingly focused on harnessing the power of television – both, on- and off-air – for its use as an effective and engaging public-service tool.
In that regard, allow me to point out some of the recent specific initiatives that Court TV's public affairs and corporate communications people have introduced or otherwise pursued.
Principally, you know us for our Golden Beacon Award-winning "Choices and Consequences" education programs. In its five-year existence it has reached more than 100,000 schools with programs designed to keep our nation's youth out of our nation's courts, by teaching young people that a poor choice made in a moment can have devastating consequences for a lifetime. Through "Choices and Consequences," we aim to empower our children to make responsible decisions and to contribute, positively, to society. We have added educational programs like the "Forensics in the Classroom Curriculum" and the "Mobile Investigation Unit" tour, which has made stops in 20 cities last year and plans 23 cities this spring and summer.
'The Meaning of Success'
As you may be aware, an element of education and pro-social causes runs, like a thread, through much of our programming. Certainly, many of our investigative documentaries and specials raise critical issues regarding tolerance, or the fairness of our criminal justice system. This year, for example, we will again focus on Robert F. Kennedy's legacy and the Human Rights Award. And, finally, our original movies attempt to raise important and relevant questions that lead to informed debate about a variety of judicial and social issues.
The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This
is the meaning of success." It is in that light that we at Court TV share with you in your passion, your vision, and our mutual goal of bringing about positive change through education and understanding.