The Library of American Broadcasting’s 10th annual Giants of Broadcasting awards ceremony and luncheon is set for New York on Thursday, Oct.18. Other honorees to be feted include George Beasley, Erica Farber, Andy Rooney, Don Cornelius, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer.
The Library of American Broadcasting’s 2012 Giants of Broadcasting honorees will include Ted Turner, television programming legend Norman Lear and Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer. They and the year’s other inductees will be celebrated for their distinguished leadership or performance in television and radio at the library’s annual event set for Oct. 18 at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The LAB today announced the first nine professionals who will be recognized in 2012 for their contributions to those media in the last half-century. The honorees join 140 Giants of Broadcasting who have been honored by the LAB since 2003.
This year’s honorees are:
NORMAN LEAR, the eminent writer-producer responsible for All in the family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son and a number of major hits that revolutionized television programming. Lear flew 52 combat missions in B-17s during World War II, then came home to begin his writing and directing career in television and film.
All in the Family premiered in January 1971 on CBS and hit its stride in the 1971-72 season, quickly taking the No. l slot in the Nielsens and holding on to it for the next five years. Lear is credited with more than 20 television series, and he started a number of production companies, including T.A.T. Communications (standing for “Tuchus Affen Tisch,” Yiddish for “putting one’s butt on the line”).
As a political activist he founded People for the American Way in 1981 and supported First Amendment rights and liberal causes. He was a successful businessman with his Act III Communications and other companies.
GEORGE BEASLEY, the chairman, CEO and founder of Beasley Broadcast Group and one of the earliest adopters of HD radio digital technology. Beasley built his first radio station, WPYB-AM Benson, N.C., in 1961 while serving as an assistant principal at a Virginia high school roughly two hours away. He sold the station five years later to buy the larger WFMC-AM Goldsboro, N.C., the first of several “trade-up” transactions during his career.
Beasley broke into the major markets in 1976 with his purchase of WDMT-FM Cleveland. In 1989 Beasley’s acquisition of KRTH-AM-FM Los Angeles marked his entry into the nation’s top-10 markets. The group now owns 42 radio stations in 11 markets. He is in the Hall of Fame of both the North Carolina and Nevada broadcasters associations.
ROBERT MACNEIL & JIM LEHRER, the journalistic pair on PBS who eventually anchored the first one-hour evening news broadcast in the U.S. and forged a career doing the rare thing. In 1975 they debuted a half-hour nightly news broadcast, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, which covered a single issue each night. That became the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour eight years later, and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer after MacNeil retired in 1995.
Kansas-born Jim Lehrer provided the U.S. part of the cross-border team, while Montreal-born Robert (Robin) MacNeil represented the Canadian. Lehrer had been a newspaperman in Dallas for 10 years, and spent three years in the Marines. MacNeil had worked for Reuters and NBC. Lehrer has been accomplishing what his partner admires as an “exit by stealth” on what is now the PBS NewsHour by gradually reducing his connection and visibility on the broadcast while building up his junior colleagues to take over, in contrast to the usual overnight turnovers at most networks.
ERICA FARBER, credited with being the first woman to become general manager of a major-market radio station (RKO’s WROR-FM Boston in 1976, a post that led to the vice presidency-general managership of WXLO-FM New York). Farber has been knocking them out of the radio park ever since, entering the station representation market at McGavren Guild in 1980 and being named VP-GM of the radio marketing division of the parent company, Interep, just three years later.
In 1992 she left Interep to join Radio & Records as the trade magazine’s executive VP of sales and marketing. She was promoted to chief operating officer in 1994 and publisher and CEO in 1996. In 2009, after completing the due diligence process for, and subsequent acquisition of, the publishing company by the Nielsen Co., she founded The Farber Connection LLC, dedicated to building an Internet-based information company.
She has held a number of positions in industry organizations, among them AWRT and Promax, the latter as chairperson, and is a past president of the Country Radio Broadcasters. Farber joined the Radio Advertising Bureau as executive VP in 2011 and became president-CEO this year, charged with leading a renaissance of the $17 billion-plus radio industry, which had suffered revenue declines in recent years.
DON CORNELIUS, best known as the creator, host and producer of the nationally syndicated Soul Train dance-music franchise from 1971 to 1993. He was born in Chicago’s South Side, joined the United States Marines after high school and served 18 months in Korea. His career took many turns in the next years, including a stint with the Chicago police department.
Radio claimed him in 1966 when he became an announcer, news reporter and disc jockey on Chicago’s WVON-AM. A year later he joined WCIU-TV there and hosted a new program called A Black’s View of the News. Three years later he started Soul Train on WCIU as a daily local show, moving to national syndication from Los Angeles a year later.
Soul Train introduced many African-American musicians — among them James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson — to a larger audience. Spike Lee described the program as an “urban music time capsule.” In 2008, Cornelius sold the show to MadVision Entertainment. He died by suicide in February of this year. Along with his deep voice he was best known for the catchphrase used to close the show. “And you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”
No one should be asked to sum up ANDY ROONEY in a paragraph. He was foremost a writer, and at least a marginal iconoclast, and became most famous for his generally irreverent closings on 60 Minutes on CBS (“A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”) featuring his observations on daily life and the passing parade.
He was drafted into the Army during World War II, and while in London began writing for Stars and Stripes. Rooney was one of six correspondents to fly on the second American bombing raid over Germany in 1943, and later was one of the first to visit the German concentration camps.
Rooney got his start in television as a writer for Arthur Godfrey and Garry Moore. In the 1960s Rooney wrote and produced several critically acclaimed specials for CBS: An Essay on Doors, An Essay on Bridges, An Essay on Hotels and An Essay on Women. His script for the 1968 special won him his first Emmy. When CBS refused to run his An Essay on War, he quit and read it himself on PBS, winning his third Writers Guild Award. At various times he got in trouble with American Indians, gays, Kurt Cobain’s fans and others offended by his point of view, but was always gracious in taking criticism. Rooney’s last appearance on 60 Minutes — his 1,097th commentary — was on Oct. 2, 2011. He died less than five weeks later at the age of 92.
SIR HOWARD STRINGER, the Welshman whose spectacular and varied career has included the presidencies of CBS News and CBS Inc. and is now chairman of the board of Sony Corp. Born in Cardiff, he came to the U.S. in 1965, is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and now holds citizenships in both the U.K. and the U.S. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1999.
Describing his career is a matter of deciding what to leave out rather than what to put in. The future Sir Howard was a journalist, producer and senior executive at CBS for 30 years, eventually becoming president of the company. He won nine Emmys during his news career. He was executive producer of CBS Reports and the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. He joined Sony in 1997 as president of Sony Corp. of America and in 2009 became president of the entire Sony Corp. He became Sony’s board chairman in June this year.
TED TURNER. Just the headlines: Expelled from Brown University for having a girl in his dormitory room. Later received an honorary B.A. Inherited a billboard company which he turned into a global franchise. Bought UHF television station WTBS Atlanta and turned it into cable superstation TBS. Used satellite to transmit to cable systems nationwide.
Started CNN as the first 24-hour news network, revolutionizing news media. Won the America’s Cup in 1977. Bought the Atlanta Braves and Hawks to beef up programming. Launched the international Goodwill Games. Gave $1 billion to the United Nations. Revived interest in professional wrestling by acquiring WCW (World Championship Wrestling), which became cable’s highest-rated show. Bought MGM, and later spun off the studios but kept the movie collection.
Started TNT (Turner Network Television) channel. Failed in bid to buy CBS. Chairman of the board of the United Nations Foundation. Founded Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corp.
Merged Turner Broadcasting System with Time Warner in 1996 but eventually left in 2006. Married and divorced three times, most recently to actress Jane Fonda. Long-running grudge with Rupert Murdoch after latter’s sponsored yacht caused Turner’s to sink during the 1983 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
Named Time’s Man of the Year in 1991. Was largest private landowner in America (two million acres) until overtaken by fellow media mogul John Malone in 2011. Owns the world’s largest herd of bison (50,000 head). Co-founded Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant chain.
Reservations for tables and individual tickets to the event may be arranged through Jessica Wolin at 212-984-1964 or [email protected].
The Library of American Broadcasting — located at the University of Maryland — is entering its 41st year as a national information resource for the radio and television industries and the academic communities that rely upon it for depth and expertise. Its collections of historic documents, professional papers, oral and video histories, books and photographs are among the nation’s most extensive.