Famed filmmaker and Hollywood powerhouse Steven Spielberg, who created a foundation to preserve oral histories of the Holocaust, is honoring the head of cable TV company Comcast for his work as “an ambassador to learning.”
Spielberg will present Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., with the Shoah Foundation’s annual Ambassadors for Humanity Award at a benefit gala Monday night. The foundation and Comcast have joined forces on educational initiatives to advance the organization’s mission to promote tolerance.
Spielberg, a three-time Oscar winner, called Roberts “a longtime advocate of finding and developing innovative avenues to reach and educate young people.”
“Brian’s vision and commitment to enhancing digital literacy in schools and communities across America make him a great ambassador for learning,” Spielberg said in a statement.
Spielberg was inspired by his 1993 Holocaust epic, “Schindler’s List,” to establish the Shoah Foundation, which gathers video testimonials from Holocaust survivors and eyewitnesses to use as teaching tools for current and future generations. Shoah is the Hebrew word for Holocaust.
Today, the foundation’s Visual History Archive is one of the world’s largest video libraries, with nearly 52,000 testimonials from 56 countries and in 32 languages. Its goal is to provide the videos to scholars and educators as a way of educating young people about the suffering caused by xenophobia around the world.
Roberts, who first met Spielberg shortly after Comcast’s bought a controlling interest of entertainment and media company NBCUniversal in January, said it was “an easy yes to want to help.”
“They’re not just taking out a video camera and documenting, they’re looking at how to make it relevant, how to make it useful, how to preserve it,” Roberts told The Associated Press on Friday. “These guys are sitting on a trove of possibilities of making education relevant for today and at the same time connecting it with the past.”
Comcast has made survivor testimonials available free to subscribers through its on-demand, online and iPad services. The company also is providing technical assistance for an application called IWitness, which will deliver lesson plans and online access to 1,000 of its video testimonials when it launches by the end of this year, Shoah Foundation executive director Stephen Smith said.
More than 12,000 secondary school teachers around the United States have been trained on the multimedia curriculum developed by the Shoah Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
“Access is really important, from bringing the testimonies to larger audiences free of charge, to sharing with universities and young people in inner-city schools,” Smith said. “Comcast has been a great partner.”
The foundation, based at the University of Southern California since 2006 and officially called the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, also gathers testimonials from survivors and witnesses of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere.
Comcast is the nation’s largest pay TV provider and the majority owner of media conglomerate NBC Universal. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers and the stadium where both teams play, the Wells Fargo Center.
The Shoah Foundation declined to disclose the dollar amount of Comcast’s contribution. Comcast most recently reported first-quarter net income of $943 million, or 34 cents per share, for the first three months of the year. That’s up 9 percent from $866 million, or 31 cents, a year ago.
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