B&C Honors Hall of Famers

Broadcasting & Cable welcomed 13 new inductees into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame at a ceremony Monday night in New York. CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo hosted the 17th annual awards dinner, held at Cipriani 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, along with B&C Hall of Fame chairman Bill McGorry and Reed Television Group publisher Larry Dunn.

The 2007 Hall of Fame class:

  • Frank A. Bennack Jr., vice chairman of the board/chairman of the executive committee, Hearst
  • Mark Burnett, producer, Mark Burnett Productions
  • Bill Cella, chairman and CEO, Magna Global Worldwide/vice chairman, Draft FCB
  • Rocco Commisso, chairman and CEO, Mediacom Communications 
  • Brian France, chairman and CEO, NASCAR
  • Harry Friedman, executive producer, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!
  • Charles Gibson, anchor, ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson
  • Bonnie Hammer, president, USA Network/Sci Fi Channel
  • Phil Kent, president and CEO Turner Broadcasting System
  • Judy McGrath, president and CEO, MTV Networks
  • Paul McTear, president and CEO, Raycom Media
  • Joe Uva, CEO, Univision

B&C also posthumously inducted longtime business editor and friend John M. Higgins, who died of a heart attack in November 2006 at age 45.

Neither Burnett nor Gibson were able to attend the awards dinner due to the wildfires in Malibu, Calif. While Burnett was unable to travel to New York, Gibson left to cover the catastrophe that evening, immediately following his World News broadcast.

The program began with the presentation of award to Harry Friedman on the occasion of Wheel of Fortune’s 25th anniversary. The Insider co-host Lara Spencer and Entertainment Tonight co-host Mark Steines presented the award to Friedman, who recalled his early days as a writer for Hollywood Squares and his initial belief that Wheel would never make it.

Presenting the posthumous award for Higgins, B&C editor Mark Robichaux and Debbie Marrone, Higgins’ widow, spoke movingly of the late reporter’s dogged truth-seeking and his generous spirit.

In accepting his award, Bennack recalled his 23-year tenure as president and CEO of Hearst and how the company’s diverse portfolio of print and electronic media had helped to “blur” the distinctions between media.

McGorry spoke on behalf of Burnett, who communicated his pride that reality television had achieved such recognition with this award.

Cella devoted his remarks to thanking his family and friends, as well as current and former colleagues from his years on both sides of the ad-sales table at ABC and advertising giant McCann Worldwide.

The always-colorful Commisso wondered if he was getting the award because B&C ran out of cable folks to honor -- or perhaps needed an Italian to pick the right wine for the event. The Mediacom CEO, who emigrated to the United States from Italy with his family at the age of 12, paid tribute to his adopted country for nurturing his entrepreneurial dreams. And he couldn’t resist a sly reference to his company’s battles with Sinclair Broadcast Group over retransmission consent, joking that his award amounted to a thanks from broadcasters getting “rich” over new retrans deals.

Recalling the first National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing broadcast in the late 1970s -- in which two drivers crashed before getting out of their cars and into a slugfest -- France celebrated the sport’s mainstream acceptance and paid tribute to his father, “Big Bill” France, who died of cancer last June.

In a video message recorded before he embarked for Malibu, Gibson recalled flipping through the Broadcasting magazine yearbook back in college and calculating that his chances for a TV career amounted to “one job in a universe of 100.” Never did he imagine, he continued, that he would become a network anchor “in a universe of three.”

Hammer reserved special thanks for her father for teaching her perseverance, which served her well when all of her broadcast colleagues told her she was crazy to leap into the great unknown of cable. Paying tribute to her colleagues at NBC Universal, Hammer paraphrased “a real Hall of Famer,” basketball legend Michael Jordan, who said, “Talent may win games, but teams win championships.”

Kent recalled the generosity of his early mentors at Blair Television and Creative Artists Agency and vowed to pay them back by continuing to extend the same generosity to aspiring media executives.

Like Hammer, McGrath recalled how her magazine colleagues reacted in disbelief that she would join a cable network devoted to playing music videos and showcasing uncouth musicians. But she expressed pride in MTVN’s celebration of diversity and its pro-social programming.

Stepping to the stage to strains of "Sweet Home Alabama," a nod to Raycom's Montgomery base, McTear thanked his mother and his wife, both in attendance, and his four sons back in Alabama. He also urged broadcasters and cable companies to find common ground over retransmission consent and noted that, when a Raycom station lost a tower in 2006, Commisso’s Mediacom was "the first to reach out to us."

Joking that he felt like one in a long line of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands on their wedding night -- “I know what I have to do; I’m just trying to figure out how to make it interesting” -- Uva closed the evening with a roll call of his own hall of fame, which included his wife, two children and parents, all in attendance. And he paid special thanks to Haim Saban and the other investors who acquired Univision and tapped him to be CEO.

As in years past, a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Broadcasters Foundation of America, which comes to the aid of broadcasters in need, and Cable Positive, which uses the power of the cable industry to spread information about AIDS.