Hilton Howell, Gray Television Chief, Gets Golden Mike From Broadcasters Foundation

Hilton Howell, Gray TV chairman and CEO
(Image credit: Malone)

Hilton H. Howell, chairman and CEO of Gray Television, received the Golden Mike award from the Broadcasters Foundation of America March 14, and sportscaster Lesley Visser got the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The event happened at the Plaza in New York, with Deborah Roberts, ABC News correspondent, hosting. 

The Broadcasters Foundation provides financial aid to radio and television professionals in need. As the program began, Ryan Seacrest, Nick Cannon, Barbara Corcoran and Nate Burleson shared the stories of grateful recipients via video. 

Roberts called Visser, of CBS Sports, “one of the most acclaimed female sportscasters of all time…in short, she is a trailblazer.”

Those speaking on Visser’s behalf included Charles Barkley and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, via video, and Ted Shaker, former CBS Sports executive producer, in the room. “Tonight is the latest in a long line of Leslie’s ground-breaking accomplishments,” said Shaker. 

Visser shared about breaking in at the Boston Globe and getting crafty to land interviews with athletes when she was denied entry to the locker room. She detailed her shift to television, and mentioned a conversation with Billie Jean King about the stress of high-leverage situations, whether they’re in sports or TV. “Pressure is a privilege,” King responded. 

Visser mentioned sports being “the ultimate passport,” and credited newsgathering on the field and the court for giving her an enriching life. 

“We may not have a billion dollars, but everyone in this room has had billion-dollar lives,” Visser said. 

Past Golden Mike recipients include Tegna president/CEO Dave Lougee in 2020 and Nexstar chairman/president/CEO Perry Sook in 2019. The event did not happen last year due to the pandemic. 

After a musical performance by Broadway star Norm Lewis, Howell was introduced. Kevin Latek, chief legal officer at Gray, spoke about having a drink with Howell not long after meeting him. Howell ordered a bottle of champagne to salute Latek joining Gray, though Latek noted that he’d hardly agreed to do so. Amidst Howell’s salesmanship, Latek did come on board, and said it was one of the smartest decisions he’d made. 

Howell’s brother Brian spoke next, and shared about Hilton bringing the family together after the death of their father, when Hilton was 22 and Brian was 18. “He got us through one of the most difficult times in my life,” said Brian. 

The Gray chief described the last two years as “stranger than fiction,” but one that enhanced the bond between local broadcasters and their viewers. “Broadcasters have earned a rare opportunity,” Howell said. “To reassert ourselves, to reassert our local values, to reassert our local connection.”

Gray owns stations in 113 markets. 

Howell said he’s heard that the sky is falling for local broadcast for just about as long as he’s worked in television, be it the emergence of cable TV, the internet or other new competitors. “Yet here we are,” he said, “still standing.”

Stations are “woven into the fabric of our communities,” he said, and “change the world for the better.”

Howell mentioned a “renaissance” for local broadcast in these challenging past couple years. “When I look up,” he said, “the sky is still pretty darn blue.” ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.