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On the afternoon of the 2018 midterm elections, Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO, arrived at the Wallis Annenberg Hall at the University of Southern California to discuss a diversity of opinions on the premium cable network and the importance of youth voting.
Though he was at the event to talk primarily about the topic of the importance of diversity in television, the exec also took the opportunity to impress upon the young crowd the importance of making their voices heard through voting. “I don’t say this as a partisan, I say this as a citizen: The level of toxicity, the level of vitriol is dangerous to a healthy democracy and society. The first antidote to all of that is to vote. The second is through the powerful voices of storytellers seeping into popular culture with messages of respect, dignity and listening to each other rather than talking at each other,” asserted Plepler.
Tuesday’s event, “Leading a New Wave of Television,” was hosted by Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and mediated by Dean Willow Bay.
Before a packed hall, Bay and her guest discussed the link between art and politics. Pleper gave details about HBO’s strategy of focusing on diverse storytellers and politically based content, including Axios, Last Week Tonight, Pod Save America and Vice News Tonight.
“I think there is an appetite — particularly in the moment and time that we’re in — for people to try and understand with more rigor the complexity of what is happening,” said the exec.
Just before Plepler left to meet his family to watch the midterm elections, he reiterated to the youthful audience: “We need you. This is a moment where we need the healers. We need the people who are bringing us all together in this country rather than tearing us apart. The only way we can take back the civility of a national conversation, however much we may disagree, is that the healers have to lean in. In the service of that, if you haven’t done it: Get out of here, go vote, and let’s hope for a great night tonight.”
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