For public affairs, it’s never easy.
To get our cover picture of Jane Root and Laureen Ong, two winners of the CableWorld-CTPAA Public Affairs Programming Awards (see "Cable’s Best Public Affairs Programming," this issue), more than one dozen people negotiated snow, ice and the dreaded "wintry mix" to assemble at NCTA headquarters in Washington, D.C., a city officially closed by the weather that morning.
Bad weather is the least of it where public affairs shows are concerned. The biggest problem usually is getting networks to allot time for shows that, while important, are unlikely to grab ratings and grow the business. That’s why former Court TV chief and current Hallmark Channel head Henry Schleiff challenged the industry to increase attention for shows that address public affairs issues.
While the interest in public affairs shows has changed little since then, the public affairs sector remains solid. The contest spawned by Mr. Schleiff’s remarks has grown each year, with this year’s fourth annual contest receiving a record number of entries. The judges felt this year’s crop was the strongest. The membership of CTPAA, which meets next week in Washington, has been growing steadily during the past four years, and is close to eclipsing 700 members. Cable operators and programmers continue to be philanthropic and are practicing strategic giving, as Peter Caranicas reports on his article "Strategic Philanthropy." Of course, as the competition for customers with DBS and the telcos heats up, the effort that cable is putting into improving its public image couldn’t come at a more propitious time. Verizon ranked 37th and AT&T 46th in a Harris Interactive-Wall Street Journal survey of 60 corporate reputations last month. Time Warner was 48th, while Comcast was 58th.
The growth of the CableWorld-CTPAA Public Affairs Programming Awards contest has a secondary benefit. A portion of the proceeds goes to CTPAA, which sends them to a cable charity. CableWorld donates the remainder. This year our share will be sent to a cause selected by the family of cable journalist extraordinaire John Higgins. A donation in his name would have made Higgins proud. It makes us proud, too.