Saturday, April 3, 2010

Award Season Continues: The Peabody Awards Honor Outstanding Work in Broadcasting

Many of us have heard of the Peabody Awards for excellence in electronic media.  Yet few know the interesting history of the award, nor the especially rich archive of winners in radio, televsion, and now internet broadcasting and web sites.

This past Wednesday, the Award recipients were announced from the Organization's home in Atlanta, where the prize was first established in 1940.  Broadcast networks and news organizations from all over the world have been cited for their merit for 2009: CBS with "60 Minutes", WFLD-TV in Chicago, BBC World News,, "Modern Family" and "Glee", "Late Night With Craig Ferguson (interview with Desmond Tutu), ABC News, "Sesame Street", GMA Phillipines and Korean Broadcasting, HBO with "The No, 1 Ladies detective Agency", stories from Appalachia and Afghanistan, PBS Frontline and the Madoff Affair, and Independent Lens, The Sundance Channel...In short, a terrific array of work, worthy of recognition and preservation.

Click Here for a complete list of this year's winners.  The official ceremony to honor the recipients will occur in New York on May 17. Host Diane Sawyer will be honored as well for her work on a story filmed in Appalachia.

Here's an award with a rich history.  The list of past recipients forms a valuable and entertaining record of broadcasting at its finest.  Those who enjoy the art of broadcasting, or care about the industry, or are entertained and enlightened by electronic media, or even those of us who follow show-business awards, really gain a lot by knowing more about the Peabody organization and the work that has been recognized by it.  I would love to see this kind of award achieve the popularity and dialog often lavished on more commercial award events.

The complete and incredible list of all winners since 1940 can be found by Clicking Here.  I find it as interesting as the Oscar and Tony Award Archives, as it provides a great timeline to popular culture and zeitgeist year by year.

Here is a brief history of the  Peabody Awards taken from the organization's website,

In 1939, the National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to recognize outstanding achievement in radio broadcasting. Committee member Lambdin Kay, manager of WSB in Atlanta, thought the award would be more credible if it were academically sanctioned and independently administered. He approached John E. Drewry of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady School of Journalism, who enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

The Peabody Award was established in 1940 with the school, now the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, as its permanent home.

The awards, long considered among the most prestigious prizes in electronic media, recognize distinguished achievement and meritorious service by radio and television networks, stations, producing organizations, cable television organizations and individuals. Though there is no set number of awards, no more than 36 have ever been presented in a single year.

George Foster Peabody, born in 1852 in Columbus, Georgia, moved with his family to New York after the Civil War. Largely self-educated, Peabody became a successful banker and supporter of humanitarian causes, especially education. He helped finance a library, a forestry school, and a classroom building at the University of Georgia and was the school’s first non-resident trustee. In appreciation, the University awarded him an honorary degree and named the new broadcasting award for him.


  1. Interesting post, Tom. I count a great many of my favorite shows in those winners lists. Even my local news station was given one this year. I had heard of the Peabody Awards before but never knew how they came to be and who their recipients were so this was a real eye-opener. Thanks for yet another fascinating read!

  2. Tom, I learned a lot from my research for this piece. Thanks for noticing!