The Hauser Oral and Video History Project
The Cable Center has been gathering oral histories from cable industry executives since its inception. To date, we have over 300 video and audio histories with more being added every year.
The beauty of oral histories is the blend of personal experiences and observations that might not make it into a third-party account. Tidbits of information that might not seem salient or important to one person can be immensely significant to another. The oral histories being gathered, catalogued, digitized and distributed by The Cable Center are highly valuable because the Hauser Oral History Collection is the only repository of first-hand stories about the creation and expansion of the cable industry.
In addition to the individual oral history accounts, The Cable Center is now taking archived video clips from various oral histories and creating video research presentations for members of the press, academia and industry leaders. The first project is a montage of clips from some of the cable industry’s early financial luminaries talking about how the industry has been funded and financed over the decades. The clips highlight the industry executives’ use of the free enterprise system to expand their businesses, and provide new products and services that have influenced how consumers entertain themselves and communicate with each other. The Cable Center is also planning another video research project about the birth of the cable modem and how it has changed society.
The oral histories explore detailed and interesting stories from many of the industry’s most notable and influential executives. The oldest oral history is from one of the industry’s first cable operators, John Walson, who began wiring his hometown of Mahoney City, Penn., for cable in 1948 and then went on to form Service Electric Cable TV and Communications. His interview is from 1970. Since then, hundreds of cable operators, programmers, engineers, financiers, and content creators have all given their personal and professional histories. Those first-hand accounts have provided researchers, academics and the press an inside view of the cable industry and its impact on society.
The Cable Center’s oral history project is named after Gustave Hauser, a long-time cable executive who formed Hauser Communications and is currently focused on a myriad of philanthropic endeavors. He also has a passion for preserving the stories of the industry’s birth and evolution.
“It’s so important for the Cable Center to house these stories and to be able to have…access to these stories about how we contributed to the greater whole, about how the cable guys… built the pipe and maintained the pipe and continued to expand the pipe and innovate,” said Italia Commisso Weinand, Mediacom Communications’ executive vice president of programming and human resources.
Included in the collection are one-of-a-kind video and written transcripts. One of these details how Ted Turner took a small, independent TV station in Atlanta and turned it into one of the industry’s largest content providers. A snapshot of the man himself is seen when he talks about how much fun it was along the way. “I mean, it’s pretty hard to get rich without having fun unless you’re robbing a bank,” he quipped to Paul Maxwell in 2001. “We didn’t do that. We earned our money the good, old-fashioned way; we earned it.”
Watch or read about Starz founder John Sie’s emigration from his native China to the U.S. via a cargo ship. His Chinese name was Shie Jungong and he didn’t speak any English when he landed on U.S. soil. It was Liberty Media chairman, John Malone, who introduced Sie to the cable business when he recruited him to work at Jerrold Electronics. This set a trajectory for Sie that would result in a long and successful career in cable. Sie would later work at Showtime, but then rejoined John Malone at Tele-Communications Inc.; and eventually formed Starz Entertainment LLC before retiring to focus on philanthropy in 2004.
Discover how after living in Asia, the Middle East and Mexico, Tom Freston came to work at MTV (Music Television). “They wouldn’t hire anyone from the conventional television business, so they were hiring school teachers, beatniks − all kinds of odds and ends. I fit right in,” Freston told John Higgins in 2003. He eventually ran MTV Networks before leaving the company in 2006.
“No one else is keeping these stories alive,” said Jana Henthorn, The Cable Center’s senior vice president of academic and industry outreach. “There is so much original research material imbedded in these oral histories and they are highly informative.”
Indeed, the Hauser Oral History Collection is the most visited page on The Cable Center’s site, according to the Barco Library librarian, Brian Kenny. “The oral histories are among the best primary source materials we have here at The Cable Center,” he said. “These industry leaders are telling their own stories in their own words, and they are very powerful.”
New oral and video histories are being added to The Cable Center’s Barco Library all the time. We are collecting stories from all the Cable Hall of Fame inductees, as well as the National Cable Telecommunications Association board members and Vanguard Award winners. Stay tuned for more oral histories, which will be added to our extensive collection soon.