Accentuating the Positive

May 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Hall

Special to TelevisionWeek

The idea for the Cable Positive POP Awards emerged during a brainstorming session on ways to encourage and highlight “positively outstanding programming” on cable that was in many cases going unnoticed.

“We knew that the programmers were doing all these great shows about HIV and AIDS and that they were not being recognized for their efforts. We wanted to change that,” said Thomas Dima, Cable Positive’s VP for communications and marketing and the participant who first posited the idea for an awards event.

A few more meetings and numerous volunteer hours later, Cable Positive was ready to roll out its first POP Awards show in February 2002. Winners included programs produced or telecast on MTV, CNN, BET and Showtime.

In subsequent years, the organization has added categories to accommodate new types of presentation and a growing volume of documentaries, series and special reports on AIDS-related topics. In 2004 seven networks collected a total of nine POP Awards. Winners included HBO, Showtime, VH1, MTV, BET, the N and Discovery Health Channel.

Interest and participation have grown each year, said Steve Villano, Cable Positive president and CEO. “We have seen an exponential increase in programming since the initiation of the POP Awards. It has been coming over the transom,” he said.

From time to time judges have bestowed special recognition outside the normal categories. Last year the panel honored the HBO miniseries “Angels in America” with a special jury award as a “television event that truly penetrated the public consciousness and created a lasting dialogue on HIV/AIDS.”

The 2004 awards added a category for outstanding community partnership to recognize local programming created in partnership between a local cable operator and a community-based AIDS service organization. The first citation went to the Northwestern Connecticut AIDS Partnership, Cablevision and Charter Communications for their work on a statewide bike tour to promote AIDS awareness.

“The support of the cable operators helps very much to get our themes out there and keep them before the public. People don’t want to hear about AIDS and HIV, so we really have to be in their face all the time or the message is lost,” said Debi Thibeault, executive director of NCAP in Torrington, Conn.

This year’s POP Awards competition includes nine categories: biographical program, documentary, news coverage, news magazine, original film/movie, original series, public service announcement, special programming and outstanding community partnership.

Programmers may enter any HIV/AIDS-related show originally produced and telecast in the United States during 2004. A panel of media writers, critics and AIDS experts screens the entries and determines winners based on content accuracy, message clarity and program quality.

“We look to honor them for not only great public service but programming that combines education and entertainment,” Mr. Dima said.

The awards ceremony will be held June 20 at the Hudson Theater at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York. The presentation format is similar to that of the Emmy or Oscar ceremonies. The audience will see clips of nominated programs, then the winners are called to the stage to accept each award. About 350 producers and network executives are expected to attend this year.