Doing The Right Thing: USA Network Tackles Hate With Program to Air Diverse Films

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November 15, 2012 ‐ By Ann Brown

Gasp! A television network is dedicating time to show “socially-conscious” movies! That’s what the USA Network says it’s doing.

According to the NBCUniversal-owned network, it is broadening its “Characters Unite” public service initiative by launching a quarterly Saturday film series on Nov. 17 with a special airing of The Color Purple. It is all part of a unique diversity initiative, with Purple’s airing coinciding with the United Nations’ International Day of Tolerance and the 30th anniversary of the publication of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which the film is based.

The series is the brainchild of NBCUniversal Cable entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer, who created the Erase the Hate campaign when she worked with USA nearly 20 years ago. More recently, she pushed through the Characters Unite campaign, which is intended to promote diversity. The idea was tested in April, when the network aired To Kill a Mockingbird on its 50th anniversary.President Obama introduced the 1962 movie about racial inequality, which went on to boost USA’s ratings by 20 percent.

“I’m a big believer that we’re not born knowing how to hate; we’re taught to hate,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter of her motivation. “We may be more sophisticated in how we hide it, but there are still so many phobias in this world, whether it’s Islamophobia, xenophobia or homophobia. I’ve been trying to do things that expose and help teach and draw attention to all of the ‘isms’ and how we do or don’t deal with them in our world. ”

And the project doesn’t stop with just the films. According to Hammer she hopes to organize panels, classroom applications and discussions with talent, producers or directors to accompany the socially-conscious films presented.

Other films for the quarterly series are to be determined, but Hammer revealed to THR she is considering Gentleman’s AgreementImitation of LifeMilk and Brokeback Mountain, among others.

Eventually, Hammer told the magazine she would like to also create a contest in which college and graduate students submit films about diversity, which could wind up airing on other NBCUniversal cable outlets such Syfy and E!

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