Big companies love to crow about how they like to give back, but few are as enthusiastic and well-suited for the task as AETN, which has produced a vast library of documentaries and biographical programs for its channels, including A&E, History and Bio.
“We’ve done a lot of work with not only educational institutions, but also museums and libraries and historical sites around the world,” AETN CEO Abbe Raven says. “So when you go to Pearl Harbor or Gettysburg or Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, the welcome videos are from the History Channel.”
This year, History is celebrating President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday with “Give a Lincoln for Lincoln,” an initiative presented as part of their ongoing Save Our History campaign asking people to give pennies, five dollar bills and larger donations to help preserve six sites associated with Lincoln’s life and legacy. The channel also sponsors Take a Veteran to School Day, now in its third year, which encourages students to invite relatives who have served in the armed forces to speak to their classes.
For teachers, AETN has Bio Classroom, an interactive Web site offering a free “Bio of the Month” lesson plan that can be used in conjunction with the commercial-free Bio Classroom Hour, airing weekday mornings. It also publishes “The Idea Book for Educators,” distributed to 240,000 teachers biannually, as well as a weekly education e-newsletter.
In addition, each year AETN sponsors numerous workshops and town hall meetings nationwide, supports local history projects and provides funding for small grassroots organizations in partnership with local cable providers. It has also launched the Recovery Project, an information outreach program inspired by the A&E series “Intervention” serving families trying to help loved ones struggling with addiction.
“We’ve had the philosophy that the cable industry itself was very much built on localism, and we wanted to be part of the local fabric of every community,” Raven says. Besides, “It’s good business to reach out to the consumer who cordially invites us into their living room every day.”