$1.2 billion. According to a recently released study commissioned by NCTA, that’s how much cable’s video and Internet providers and programmers put toward corporate giving in 2014. The impact that kind of funding has on socially responsible programs is immeasurable, but what does that even look like? Our industry has long been a contributor to philanthropic efforts, but until now, there hasn’t been much information about what that impact translates to. Where is the money going? Who is it helping? And how is it making our lives and communities any better?
The report, Measuring the Philanthropy of the Cable Industry, helps to answer these questions by offering a glimpse of initiatives that are taking off, community partnerships we have forged, and the empowerment that has resulted among groups and organizations across the country. The report found that in-kind contributions, direct cash giving, employee volunteerism, and employee-matching gift donations comprised the bulk of cable’s giving, and that the program area with the most support was equality and diversity. Giving a voice to diverse audiences ranked as number one, followed by community and economic development, education, and disaster relief.
Let’s hone in a bit on equality and diversity to get a better picture of how programmers and operators are influencing the nation’s landscape. On this front, Scripps Networks Interactive and Viacom are among the companies that have led the charge towards building a more inclusive society through the following initiatives.
For its Leading Women Defined annual conference, BET encourages leadership among black female audiences through a focus on education, leadership, health and activism for women and girls. During this conference, the achievements of prominent African-American women in the business are highlighted and celebrated, but more importantly, leaders gather to engage in discussing solutions that will positively impact the African-American community on a national scale.
In support of LGBT rights, Viacom joins in GLAAD’s Spirit Day to speak out against the bullying and injustices that occur against LGBT youth and individuals. On Spirit Day, which generally occurs in October, participants wear purple and share messages and stories in schools, media outlets and on social media to spread awareness about the bullying, discrimination and challenges faced by the transgender community. MTV also launched the Look Different campaign, a combination of on-air, digital and social media content that examines the consequences of the hidden biases and discriminatory transgressions in our society today against LGBT and minority populations.
To combat child hunger, Scripps partners with Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry initiative. The Food network aired a documentary that informed audiences about the hunger crises, and in addition to that Scripps helped to build food gardens in partnership with community organizers and businesses, and to organize nutrition education for at-risk families.
On a different front, there are many cable operators connecting with local communities in an effort to assist veterans, schools, and homeless populations. Charter is one that has a large volunteer system that encourages employees to take social action in the communities in which they live through rebuilding homes for people in need, such as repairing a residence for people with developmental disabilities and making it into a healthier and safer environment. Midco is another whose foundation has awarded over $100,000 in grants to various nonprofits, schools and government organizations in rural areas in which it serves, with the donations going towards things like hygiene supplies for a hospital, a dash cam system for a police department, and educational activities for a youth center. And Comcast, in celebrating the company’s year-long commitment to service, holds Comcast Cares Day each year, the nation’s largest single-day corporate volunteer event. Last year, 100,000 volunteers participated in improvement projects in over 900 parks, schools, beaches, senior centers and various community sites.
Operators are also focused on providing digital literacy training and bringing connectivity to those that don’t have the luxury of high-speed broadband at their fingertips through partnerships with organizations like TechLatino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association. Comcast’s Internet Essentials is a program that has helped over 2.4 million low-income Americans connect to the Internet from inside their homes and has provided more than $280 million of support for digital literacy training. Cox’s Connect2Compete program is another initiative that helps families with school children receiving federal assistance obtain discounted Internet services, giving kids the connectivity they need to complete their homework and to continue their learning outside of the classroom.
This is just a fraction of the work that is being done. There are numerous companies promoting activism for health and social service issues, those working to preserve culture and the arts, and others with a focus on civic and public affairs. There are few industries that connect so many people in the wide range of economic, age, and gender demographics than Internet service providers and cable programmers do, and even fewer that can have such a wide impact on their perceptions, education, health, civic and personal lives. These are also the same people who, as consumers, have helped the new media economy grow and whose diverse perspectives continue to fuel the ever-evolving digital and television worlds. It only makes sense then for cable operators and networks to come together and use that influence to give back to the communities and people that helped them grow.
$1.2 billion is definitely a noteworthy feat, but the work is never done. As the saying goes, it takes a village, and we will continue to serve as catalysts for change by leveraging the resources and sharing the inspiring stories found throughout our diverse companies.