In Depth

Testimonial: Decker Anstrom

It takes a special person to be an industry’s chief representative in Washington, D.C., today.

Policy-making has become a 24/7 business, with legislative and regulatory developments springing from early breakfasts to late-night text messages—and news breaking around the clock, from bloggers to cable news correspondents.

Anticipating events, focusing on the important and not the trivial, and wisely guiding an industry’s strategic direction takes extraordinary intellect, hard work and deep insights into the policy-making process.

I have had the privilege to work closely with Kyle McSlarrow—and there’s no question he possesses these attributes, and more. His leadership of the cable industry is distinguished by his ability to get out in front of major issues by driving consensus among cable’s diverse business interests, and devising constructive, creative, public-spirited initiatives to address policy challenges.

Kyle likes to tell the story of his first day on the job at NCTA. His plans to spend the day introducing himself to his new co-workers were interrupted when a congressional leader publicly declared war on “indecent” TV programming.

Within days, while still settling into the NCTA, Kyle had fashioned a counter-offensive.

He substantively responded to congressional concerns with strong legal and regulatory arguments. Even more, he led cable’s companies in launching a major consumer education initiative about cable parental controls and pledged industry support for the effort with $250 million in public service advertising.

Kyle’s leadership helped bring other industries to the table to better educate families about how to manage media content and forge a new partnership with key congressional leaders.

Similarly, Kyle showed visionary leadership in building cable support for the broadcasters’ transition to digital.

While many viewed this primarily as a challenge for 1,800 broadcast stations, Kyle realized instantly that cable, which delivers television to 60% of American households, could—and should—help lead the charge. He provided strong NCTA support to the DTV Transition Coalition, persuaded cable operators and programmers to launch extensive consumer education campaigns, and committed substantial industry funding to civic and community groups for their education efforts.

As the transition approached, Kyle saw that cable could provide a valuable service by committing call-center resources to answer the blitz of consumer questions likely to flow from the analog shutoff. Cable stepped to the plate with millions of dollars to staff a call center that was largely responsible for the ease with which the nation handled the first big wave of analog shutoffs in February.

Kyle’s style of anticipatory, principled leadership—coupled with his intellect and integrity—is perfect for our times. And it’s helping to constructively shape the new media landscape of the 21st century.

Decker Anstrom is former president and chief operating officer of Landmark Communications, and former president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.