Back and Forth: One Idea for the Echo Chamber
by Lou Zacharilla
New York City, October 7, 2011--This column was nearly entitled, “In Praise of Intelsat.” But I knew people would either not read it, accusing me of being a shill for the satellite industry, or would pore over it hoping it was an ironic title, and that I would write a funny piece intended to bash the world’s largest satellite operator.
Neither is true. I believe that the satellite industry is the greatest industry on earth, but only because the facts bear it out. I also believe that there are many good reasons to praise Intelsat with a straight face. Many. The company may now and then need a personality transplant. Who doesn’t? For example, its relationship with the teleport industry is strained, but steps are being taken to create an awareness of what may be at stake if it escalates. Increasingly, I observe that the company is often merely a target of envy, much like the New York Yankees (America’s most lucrative and successful sporting franchise.) If you win often and win aggressively, watch out. Everyone has you in their sights. It is human nature.
But now and then the truth about a company’s real core comes from the voice or gesture of its CEO or chairman. The FSS CEO panel at the World Summit for Satellite Finance concluded here in Paris a few minutes ago in the elegant Westin hotel. This event, produced by Euroconsult, is one of the great events on our calendar. But naturally these events migrate into an echo chamber after a few days. People are enclosed and deprived of sunlight for days. Ideas, opinions and rumors circulate like the air in the hotel HVAC system.
What also circulates are the usual grumbles and groans. It is so today among a handful of the 400 or so in attendance. The grumbles are predictable, and to some degree right.
“They never say anything of substance.”
“They are so boring.”
“They said that at Satellite in DC.”
“They all say they want to keep pricing down and capacity available. Bull…!”
Any little sign of conflict or jabbing at each other brings the audience to life. Like Romans in the Coliseum, we want blood. I understand. CEOs are easy targets because they run companies and have great authority over many of us. Business is a blood sport in many ways and fear can be prevalent in it. We are all adults and it is not always easy to earn our daily loaves.
However, this year there were several moments when I again found the seam which binds this industry to its true mission. It is a powerful thing to hear. This time it came what many would consider a throw-away remark from Intelsat’s Dave McGlade.
Speaking about the degree to which the downsizing of major military conflicts will impact the revenues of operators, Dave joined his colleagues and noted that much of what we do is to use our technologies for other military support functions. These are less likely to go away.
When pushed a bit, he showed his true emotion and passion. He replied, “Our work takes kids outof harm’s way. Technology in service of military operations is good when it does this and it is something our companies and our nations should be very proud of. We should think about that!”
I thought, yes, let that one bounce inside the echo chambers and get posted to blogs, websites and columns for the next year or so. If you are keeping a list on your refrigerator or your laptop of the true virtues of the satellite industry, please put that one in ALL CAPS.
As you might expect, a cynic said outside that it was probably “scripted.” In fact, it was not because I congratulated him on the remarks and he wanted to elaborate further. It was right straight du coeur. It kept the satellite industry right on mission.
Lou Zacharilla is the Director of Development of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). He can be reached at: LZacharilla@sspi.org