A couple of things sticking in my craw on a Tuesday morning… For years, if there was one thing this industry did well it was support worthy causes. For all the fine-tuning required by organizations like Kaitz, NAMIC, WICT, Cable Positive and the T. Howard Foundation (which I head), we could always be proud of the broad support we gave them. The problem is we’re not so broad anymore. Consolidation has turned hundreds of companies into a handful. Literally. What was once an open prairie is now a city block’s worth of high-rises. And as that horizontal field has consolidated into vertical towers of power, the industry’s inherent social responsibility has consolidated as well. However, many of the remaining players don’t seem to get that. With each passing year they behave more and more like this is the cable industry of a generation ago. They still write their checks, and I’m grateful for that, but the problem is they’re supporting at the same level they did a generation ago. That was fine when there were hundreds of companies writing checks. But most of those companies are gone. Those that are left must pick up the slack. If XYZ Media, a longtime supporter of the Q Foundation, acquires a dozen networks that each used to support the Q Foundation, shouldn’t XYZ increase its support accordingly? And if not by twelve times as much, than six? Or at least three? And isn’t there a value to XYZ in giving the twelve networks, or at least clusters of them, the opportunity to position themselves as supporters of the Q Foundation to their peers? On the MSO side, shouldn’t Do-Re-Mi Cable support the Q Foundation, not through a single corporate donation, but contributions from its huge divisions across the country? Many cable systems these days are bigger than the average MSO of a generation past. Don’t their revenues dictate that they support worthy causes as individual entities? To those atop the food chain, please reconsider your support of industry organizations. They simply will not survive without you, and if they go, their missions will die with them. ***** There is a lot of talk these days about censorship, which scares me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as appalled as anyone by the amount of garbage on television. And I understand completely that much of the criticism is about balancing politics (it is an election year, after all) and greed (sex sells, and networks seem obsessed with packaging it in ways that maximize profits and minimize political heat). What concerns me is the broad brush politicians and right wingers will invariably use to paint salacious content will cover something more important – ideas. Look, when Madonna tongue kisses Britney Spears that’s not about freedom, that’s about money. If it were more profitable to talk about baking pies than breasts, rest assured Howard Stern would be broadcasting from a kitchen. So I have a problem when people simply trying to make a buck wrap themselves in the flag and stand behind the 1st amendment. However, when the 10-second delay now adopted by networks to allow them to edit "obscenity" from live telecasts is used to delete comments by loose cannons like Michael Moore – comments not consistent with the opinions of the network – that’s another thing altogether. To take a someone’s opinion and deny us the right to hear it flies in the face of just about every principle on which our Constitution was written, while disgracing the memories of those who gave their lives defending it. While I’m not sure this country was created to make Madonna and Howard Stern rich, Symonds says I’m dead certain it was founded on Michael Moore’s right to speak his mind. Curtis Symonds can be reached at: curtissymonds@yahoo.com

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