Earlier this week, the Walt Disney Company announced its 4th quarter profits which were solidly up pointing to increases in resort bookings and theme park attendance along with huge profits generated from Disney's biggest (by far) money maker - ad revenue coming out of Disney's broadcast networks, in particular ESPN and the Disney Channels.
Also earlier this week, well in fact all week, ESPN had sports fans riveted to their TVs documenting the downfall of the Penn State University football program and its legendary coach along with other senior university officials. The events that caused the upheaval are hideous and vile and certainly do not need to be discussed in this blog other than in one particular context.
Bob Iger, in his annual address to Disney stockholders, was asked once again about making Disney's classic "Song of the South" live action / animated film from the 1940's available to viewers at home through DVD and blu-ray packages. He is asked the same question every year. Because of the time when the film was made and that the main character in film is not given any time context, the film is charged with unflattering racial stereotyping that is regarded as "politically incorrect" by today's standards. In answering the question as to why the film would not be distributed, Iger (paraphrasing here) said that while the film would generate some profit revenues for Disney if it was distributed through retail, he believed that it is necessary to forgo the profits in order to "do the right thing" and keep the sensitive film out of distribution. Even though those particular words (Do The Right Thing) come from director Spike Lee's first major film, the sentiment is something that I think about often in these times.
Our institutions have failed of us in so many ways in recent years through this continual economic downturn. The government, banks, insurance companies, other major industries did so many wrong things and it came down to the pursuit of profit exceeded the concept of doing the right thing. And now we have a major university being ridiculed because it seemed to value the institution of the university and its huge revenue generating football program more than the health and safety of sadly victimized young boys.
For Disney fans, I hope Iger is right in the decisions he has left in his CEO tenure. Ultimately, his responsibility is to generate a profit for his stockholders but in doing this he also has to make countless decisions in what constitutes doing the right thing for the legions of Disney fans. Making money does matter. So does doing the right thing.