WE: Women’s Entertainment

In May, WE: Women’s Entertainment launched its first-ever public-affairs initiative, WE Empowers Women, to support organizations that reflect the “modern lives” of its female viewers: intelligent, strong, confident and diverse women, both at work and at home. The effort is designed to find mentorship, education and health programs that represent and help young women similar to those who watch WE’s female-friendly fare. The network is available in 55 million homes.

To jump-start its move toward enacting social change, the network picked non-profit Girls Inc., which supports research and public-education efforts for young girls, as its first beneficiary. In 2003, the group reached 840,000 girls through affiliates, a Web site and educational publications. WE expects to name two or three more organizations as benefactors before the end of the year.

Is the effort an attempt to play catch-up with Lifetime, which has been a trailblazer in women’s causes? Not according to WE General Manager Kim Martin, who says her network’s foray stemmed from viewer requests.

“Women today have such a hectic schedule juggling work and outside stuff. They wanted an organization that would speak to their modern lives,” Martin says. “Everybody wants to feel like they’re connected to their community. And it’s nice to know you’re watching a network that feels the same way.”

WE, a subsidiary of Cablevision-owned Rainbow Entertainment Services, isn’t alone. Since May 2004, sister Rainbow network IFC has had a public-affairs initiative called The Film School Project. Inspired by its Film School reality series, IFC partners with cable operators to provide high school students with free, literature-based film-production classes developed to meet the standards of the National Council of Teachers of English and International Reading Association.