I read in CableFAX yesterday that Cable Positive head Steve Villano is at odds with some of his board members. Steve wants to let telcos and DBS operators into his organization, believing that more members would mean more money for AIDS research and more places to spread the word about AIDS prevention. Steve’s MSO board members feel that since the name of the organization is, indeed, Cable Positive, it should remain cable-exclusive. They want it to stay something that the cable industry-and the cable industry only-can wear on its sleeve for a goodly amount of much needed political capital. Well, I’ve got some news. They’re both right. And they’re both wrong. Look, letting DBS and telcos participate in Cable Positive will make for a stronger organization. It will deepen pockets, extend its ability to spread AIDS and HIV awareness and bring new energy and ideas to board meetings. It would send a clear message to consumers, politicians and the media that this issue is so important that cable operators will to work with their blood enemies to fix it. That’s a nice swords-into-plowshares message. It’s not going to happen. MSOs are at a crossroads. ISPs and video providers are out there trying to skin them alive. Rather than working with them, they go to bed at night trying to find ways to get them to swallow their tongues. It is dog-eat-dog, and we’re not talking poodles. Given operators’ 20-year history of placing near the bottom of most consumer respect surveys-down there with good buddies like used car salesmen and DMV clerks-I understand why MSOs want a high-profile cause to call their own. When a major AIDS breakthrough is realized, Cable Positive will have played a big role in making it happen. When that time comes, operators everywhere will rightly want to take a bow. It’s no surprise that this issue came up. You see, Steve Villano is one of the most passionate and decent men you will ever want to meet. He has kept the issue front and center, even though it has lost its sense of urgency over the years. AIDS may not be the plague we first envisioned, nor is it this alpha disease that infects people in mysterious ways. It is not impacting heterosexuals in a way that many first feared it would. For those reasons and more, Main Street America has moved to other cataclysmic issues over which to obsess. But Villano goes to work every morning with a fire in his belly. He sees one enemy and one enemy only: AIDS. His singular obsession with eliminating AIDS is what makes him so damn good at what he does. Unlike some in cable who look at Cable Positive and ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Steve Villano could care less. He’s on a global mission. He sees entire villages of Africans dying and wants to help. He knows that we are the family of man and what happens to any member of our family happens to all of us. That’s how Steve Villano approaches his job. The Cable Positive board needs to understand that what makes this guy so good is his inability to politicize human suffering. What’s the answer? Who knows? But Symonds says a compromise should be worked out. Because the only thing I’d hate to see more than the premature death of Cable Positive is a Cable Positive without Steve Villano at the helm. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com.

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