Bryan Jablonski Johnson, Accessible Media Manager at CBS Entertainment Group
May 5, 2021
Member of the Transatlantic Forum
Q. You’re currently the Accessible Media Manager for CBS Entertainment Group, a division of ViacomCBS. In this role, you partner with operations, news, sports, and legal departments to create strategies that help the network meet its objective of providing world-class closed-captioning and video description assistance to millions of viewers. Can you tell us why you decided to work in the network television sector and your responsibilities?
Public service is at the core of who I am. Thankfully, I have been blessed throughout my career to have held jobs that are in service to others. I chose to work in national television because of its ability to entertain and inform millions of people of different backgrounds. There is no platform that unites people in times of national triumph or tragedy like television. Every role I have held in network television has been pro-social in nature. I started my career embedded in news, but I am currently in accessible media services where my top priority is to help the deaf/hard of hearing and blind/low vision get the news, sports, and entertainment they need to live more informed and empowered lives. I plan, coordinate, and advocate for closed captioning and video description for the blind/low vision and deaf/hard of hearing for programming across multiple ViacomCBS platforms. In recent years, accessible media has become increasingly popular in public spaces (e.g. gyms, bars, restaurants, etc.) for people of all backgrounds. Everyone can benefit from closed captioning and video description.
Q. You’re a mentor (Big Brother) with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York and co-chair of the associate board for Xavier Mission. Can you tell us about your involvement with two organizations? Why did you decide to be part of them?
My involvement with Xavier Mission (XM) and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City is my way of giving back to the larger NYC community. I came to New York at the age of 18 with dreams of working in network television and never looked back. Growing up in South Carolina, my mentor was a news anchor named Steve Crocker; a native New Yorker. He was a fantastic mentor and I promised myself that I would one day mentor others. My “Little Brother” is now an 18-year-old who will be graduating from high school in June. It’s been such a joy watching him over the years mature into the young man he is today.
As founding co-chair of the Xavier Mission Associate Board, I fundraise; provide strategic planning for associate board supported initiatives; and give guidance to associate board members. Last year, the associate board focused on improving the men’s shelter XM runs while shattering all our fundraising goals. This year, I’ve directed the associate board to assist with the life skills empowerment program, which encourages and empowers survivors of trauma to set goals and become productive and engaged citizens. Xavier Mission also runs New York’s largest soup kitchen on Sundays. XM runs six programs that serves New York’s most vulnerable populations. If you are reading this interview and would like to give to a very worthwhile cause, please consider donating to Xavier Mission at www.xaviermission.org/donate/ .
Q. You’re a graduate of Coro Leadership New York, a program centered at the nexus of business, government, and non-profit, to make New York City a more equitable city for New Yorkers. What are your ideas to develop innovative solutions to public policy issues?
First and foremost, we must educate citizens on the role of government. I don’t think the government should do what people can and should do for themselves. I believe in partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Many of the problems facing the United States of America, France, and the world are adaptive challenges. In other words, there are no clear solution to these problems, and it will take cross-sector collaboration to address these pressing issues. I believe in the power of free markets.
The government’s job should be the protection of its citizens and creating opportunities for citizens to lead freer and more prosperous lives. Government should enact fiscally sound policies that lead to private sector growth. The non-profit sector must lead the way on social issues and the government should enact policy based on their recommendations. The private sector must create opportunities to allow individuals to pursue their own version of the “American Dream.” I’m a big proponent of entrepreneurship and I believe that every child in America should learn how to start and run a business by the time they graduate from high school. Only when there are clear distinctions on the roles of the public, private, and non-profit sectors can we then use data to its fullest potential to find out where public policy can be most effective.
Q. You’re currently dedicating your life to public service. What’s the next step in your professional life? What are your aspirations?
I am a network television professional, but I do feel a calling to serve in politics. I don’t have a background in politics, and I don’t plan on becoming a career politician.
However, I do look to the “Founding Fathers” of the United States as inspiration on how to plan the remaining decades of my career. In the short-term, I’m applying to graduate school where I would like to develop my public policy and business toolkit. After graduate school, I plan to spend a few years in a consulting role before running for political office at the city or state level. There are many challenges I would like to address to make life more equitable. For example, I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City. Next door is East Harlem, which is a working-class neighborhood with significant levels of poverty. Your zip code shouldn’t determine your outcome in life. Children from both neighborhoods should have the same chances in life. Once I finish my time in political office I will return to the private sector. I believe being an informed and engaged citizen is the highest privilege afforded to anyone living in a democracy. However, I reserve the right to answer the call to service at any time; even after I have retired from public life.
Q. You are a member of the French-American Foundation’s Transatlantic Forum. What made you decide to join this program?
The relationship between the United States and France goes back centuries and goes together like apple pie and vanilla ice cream; it’s a winning combo. As a Black American man, it is not lost on me that France embraced Black Americans and our rich and vibrant culture before the United States of America. As a member of the Transatlantic Forum, I want to play a role in strengthening the ties between France and the United States by developing bonds with leaders who are at the forefront of their industries and have a deep love and appreciation for politics, culture, arts, and global affairs. I joined the Transatlantic Forum during the pandemic, so everything has been virtual. That said, I have found the program topics to be very interesting, the information presented informative, and the members in attendance actively engaged. I look forward to in- person programming over a nice meal and a glass of wine!