WHOLL FILL THE GAP?

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

From raising millions of dollars for Cable Positive to
boosting his company's participation in the Cable & Telecommunications Association for
Marketing and other associations, Leo J. Hindery Jr. was a champion of cable
public-affairs efforts.

Hindery's upcoming departure from AT&T Broadband &
Internet Services leaves some association executives anxious about whether the MSO will
maintain the increased commitments he made and some cable networks wary about whether they
will get promised spots on AT&T Broadband's channel lineup.

"I think [Hindery's departure] poses a new challenge
for us and other associations, and that is establishing relationships that will help both
employees and associations," Women in Cable & Telecommunications executive
director Pamela Williams said. "I would hope that we would not see any substantial
decreases" in AT&T Broadband's financial commitments, she added.

Industry executives hope, among other things, that cable
will continue to push the diversity initiatives Hindery aggressively supported during his
tenure.

Hindery was the catalyst for several industry-diversity
programs, including the initiative created in partnership with the National Cable
Television Association, the National Association for Minorities in Cable, WICT, Cable
Positive and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Just last week, Hindery presided over a joint effort by
AT&T, the NAACP and DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co. to raise awareness of the AIDS threat
to African Americans.

NAMIC released a statement saying that the organization was
"proud to have counted Leo Hindery as a champion of our vision for a
telecommunications industry that values and demonstrates diversity." The organization
also said Hindery's presence will be missed, "but the change he has set in motion can
never be stopped."

But some industry executives wondered last week who would
fill the gap left by the most vocal champion for cable diversity -- particularly with the
NAACP planning to release a comprehensive look at cable's diversity practices early next
year.

"One of the key roles Hindery played was a
spokesperson for the [diversity] cause, and we're waiting to see who among the industry's
leaders will pick up the mantle and become the vocal leader Leo was," one MSO
executive said.

AT&T Broadband will apparently adhere to Hindery's
vision of adding at least one African-American-targeted basic-cable network.

Hindery had promised to commit AT&T Broadband's
resources and lobbying clout to a new African-American family-values network, and he made
a distribution offer similar to one presented to start-up women's network Oxygen -- to
give such a service 7 million subscribers by 2001 if the network lands other affiliates.

At least three networks are vying for the slot: Space
Station TeleVision, an African-American-owned company that includes entertainment
entrepreneur Quincy Jones; MBC Network, led by African-American celebrities such as
heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and entertainer Marlon Jackson; and a second
service from Black Entertainment Television.

AT&T Broadband spokeswoman Tracy Hollingsworth said the
MSO is in "advanced discussions" with MBC and Space Station, but she would not
comment further on specifics.

"There's absolutely no wavering in our commitment to
diversity within our company, and we remain dedicated to representing minority views and
programming to our customers," she added.

"AT&T strongly supports minority programming, and
proof of that is the affiliation agreement they're doing with us," MBC director of
strategic alliances Collie Bennett said. "We look forward to being on all AT&T
systems in the near future."

Hindery focused on public-affairs initiatives as soon as he
joined AT&T Broadband predecessor Tele-Communications Inc.

In his first public address as TCI president, in May 1997,
he declared at a Washington Metro Cable Club luncheon that TCI had to become a "more
responsible corporate citizen." At that time, Hindery announced several initiatives,
including:

• Tripling TCI's financial support to Cable Positive;

• Increasing TCI's 50-person membership in NAMIC by
500 percent;

• Doubling TCI's attendance at the Cable Television
Public Affairs Association forum, and requiring TCI to have more Beacon Awards entries
than other cable company; and

• Requiring all TCI marketers at systems counting more
than 50,000 subscribers to be active in CTAM.

The year before Hindery joined TCI, Jedd Palmer, then the
MSO's head programmer, was the only TCI executive to attend the CTAM Summit in 1996. This
past July, 125 AT&T Broadband executives attended the CTAM Summit in San Francisco.

"He definitely kept his commitment," CTAM
president Char Beales said. "I really believe that we've proven to [AT&T
Broadband] that it is valuable to belong to CTAM," she added, noting that she expects
the company to maintain Hindery's heightened level of commitment.

CTPAA executive director Sara Breaux said AT&T's
involvement with the association increased significantly under Hindery, adding that he
"re-energized not only TCI at the time, but the other MSOs, to the importance of what
these associations do."

Breaux said, "You hope that it's going to be a legacy,
but that remains to be seen. There are no guarantees."

AT&T Corp. spokeswoman Adele Ambrose said she couldn't
address the company's specific commitments to groups such as the CTPAA, but in general,
"Certainly, AT&T has a long-standing commitment to being a good corporate citizen
… There's every reason why those sorts of activities will continue."

One of Hindery's top causes was Cable Positive, the
industry organization that promotes AIDS and HIV awareness, in which he is board member.

"It's safe to say that with his help, we were able to
surpass the $1 million mark each year for the past three years," Cable Positive
associate director Nancy Schadoff said.

With Hindery gone, Cable Positive expects support from
other top executives -- such as Bresnan Communications president Bill Bresnan and Falcon
Communications Inc. chairman Marc Nathanson -- to help maintain fund-raising levels,
Schadoff said. Both MSO chiefs are honorary chairs at Cable Positive.

In addition to announcing a 15-year carriage deal for
C-SPAN and C-SPAN II during his first speech as TCI president in 1997, Hindery pitched a
five-year, "multimillion-dollar" public-affairs initiative with Courtroom
Television Network.

Hindery's commitment served as a "critical
catalyst" for Court TV's "Choices and Consequences" pro-tolerance and
anti-violence campaign, Court TV president Henry Schleiff said.

Schleiff added that he discussed the campaign with Hindery
during a telephone conversation last Tuesday, saying, "He said in no uncertain terms
that he considered this to be one of the most important things he has focused on."

Hindery assured Schleiff, "In any way, shape, matter
or form going forward, in an undetermined capacity, he's going to continue to be
supportive of it."

While AT&T said Hindery will remain a "strategic
adviser" to chairman C. Michael Armstrong, Hindery said last week that he'll be
leaving AT&T Broadband "relatively soon. It will certainly be measured in
weeks."

Meanwhile, Hindery, a longtime Republican, said he has
switched parties and is working as the finance chairperson for Vice President Al Gore's
presidential campaign.

"I believe in the vice president, and I am committed
to use whatever connections and relationships I have. I give speeches on his behalf, I
raise money and I write letters and make phone calls and stuff like that," Hindery
said in an interview last week.

Will he enter politics? "I just want the vice
president to be successful," he responded.

"I have just had it on these issues of diversity, guns
and choice," Hindery said when asked why he switched political parties. "I think
the vice president has a sensitivity to society that is more in keeping with where I find
myself now."

Ted Hearn contributed to this report.

Related