Elevating Black Voices During Black History Month and Beyond
Black History Month is celebrated in February, but the cable industry supports initiatives that are focused on social justice for the Black community all year long. As the country continues to undergo a reckoning on race and inequality, especially in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, cable operators and TV programmers are stepping up their efforts to support the Black community, to combat racism, and to create a more just and equitable society.
Last June, Comcast NBCUniversal pledged $100 million towards a multiyear program to fight injustice and inequality. The company also contributes to thousands of organizations supporting underrepresented communities through the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation and social impact programs, and pledged to continue to do so.
Cox also established a $1 million fund last summer to support organizations focused on social justice and civil and human rights, including the Equal Justice Initiative, United Negro College Fund, and National Urban League. Cox also supported the Ad Council's Racial Equality campaign by donating $1 million in advertising time on the network to help spread the message of racial justice. These steps build on Cox's legacy of charitable giving to organizations including HBCU Rising, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Action, and The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, among many others.
Charter announced last June that it would invest $10 million in partnership with the National Urban League and National Action Network to support small businesses owned by Black people and other people of color with grants and low-interest loans. In addition, Charter donated $3.5 million in public service announcements for the National Urban League and others to raise awareness about their low-interest loan programs.
Cable TV networks have also deeply invested in the cause and are using their resources and airwaves to spread awareness around social justice issues that are impacting the Black community. ViacomCBS committed $5 million to social justice causes, and announced new initiatives last summer to develop diverse talent in front of and behind the camera. A+E Networks published resources and a list of organizations that support the Black community and that combat racism through education and activism.
BET launched Content for Change last year, an initiative aimed at helping to address racial inequalities in America. Content for Change, as BET's website states, "supports the creation, distribution, marketing, and promotion of content that will help drive the critical changes needed to eliminate systemic racism and inequality in America." The initiative expands BET's relationships with social justice organizations. To support the initiative, BET and its corporate partners dedicated $25 million to the campaign that will focus on racial justice, economic empowerment, education, health, and civic participation.
In tribute to Black History Month, The Undefeated–ESPN's multiplatform content initiative that explores the intersection of sports, race, and culture–collaborated with National Geographic to produce the upcoming documentary, The March on Washington, Keepers of the Dream. The one-hour documentary looks at the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s through the eyes of the heroes who marched for justice and equality. The film also dives into the historic racial upheaval of 2020. The television special will air on February 18 on National Geographic and is an extension of ESPN's Black History Always initiative, which is the network's content commitment to highlight Black stories beyond just Black History Month. This year, ESPN's #BlackHistoryAlways began on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 18 and concludes on Jackie Robinson Day on April 15.
National Geographic is also celebrating Black voices throughout February with short-form content across its platforms, as well as through its Overheard podcast series. On February 12, Overheard will feature a computer scientist and photographer who will "reframe Black history through their work across maritime archeology, artificial intelligence and photo journalism." National Geographic Kids also created a digital hub dedicated to Black heroes with profiles featuring John Lewis, Katherine Johnson, George Washington Carver, and Bessie Coleman.
These are just a handful of the social justice initiatives and programming dedicated to antiracism that are taking place across the cable industry. As the country joins together this month in celebrating Black heroes and reflecting on America's social justice climate, past and present, the industry continues to build on its commitment to use its resources, reach, and influence to lift Black voices and to drive change.