B&C Fetes Hall of Fame 2009 Class
Broadcasters, cable executives, tech pioneers and a Monday-night American institution celebrated at Waldorf-Astoria
By B&C Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/21/2009 10:13:27 AM
Broadcasting & Cable celebrated the induction of its 2009 class of honorees at the 19th annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame awards gala Oct. 20. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams hosted the event at New York's Waldorf-Astoria honoring:
- Richard Beaven
- Linda Bell Blue
- Patrick Esser
- Jorge Ramos
- Abbe Raven
- Johnathan Rodgers
- Robert J. Ross
- Jack Sander
- David Verklin
- Tony Vinciquerra
- Jeff Zucker
- Monday Night Football
Guest presenter Mary Hart, host of Entertainment Tonight, introduced Hall of Fame inductee Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of ET and The Insider, by sharing Blue's famous quote: "Relaxing is not my strength." That was clearly evidenced by the fact the Blue gets up every morning at 3:30 a.m. and has been known to hold production meetings while on the treadmill in her office.
Like any good entertainment producer, Blue stressed her firm
belief in the "tease" to entice an audience and sampled this skill
with the crowd. "Thirty years ago I walked into the KPIX control room and
saw something magnificent..."
After leaving the audience in suspense, she continued by showing her appreciation for the honor. "Being recognized for something I love to do almost feels like cheating," she said. "My deepest gratitude goes to B&C."
Blue's late father pushed her to strive for excellence as a child growing up in Springfield, Mo. and she recalled how proud he was of her accomplishments. "My father didn't even watch Entertainment Tonight. He watched Jeopardy! But he would always flip back [to ET] at the end," to see Blue's name in the credits.
She concluded her speech with the answer to her initial tease about what she saw in that KPIX control room. "I saw Steve Blue directing news like a symphony. He took my breath away. And so, I married him."
Hart warmly introduced her longtime friend Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, who called it a "dream come true to belong to this Cooperstown of TV." Vinciquerra said he comes from a baseball family in Upstate New York and drew several allusions to America's pastime in talking about his long career in television. Vinciquerra's father played minor league baseball and both of his parents taught him the fundamentals - "values, integrity, work ethic" - that he said guided him throughout his career.
Vinciquerra got his first introduction to the TV business while still in college, after meeting a local TV salesman who "dressed nice" and "didn't seem to work too hard." Vinciquerra soon found out it was a lot harder than it looked. The impressive salesman was out of his job soon after Vinciquerra took his first steps into TV, learning "either you make the plays or you're cut from the team."
In addition to his parents and his own family, including wife Toni Knight, Vinciquerra credited his News Corp. colleagues past and present for helping him remain part of a winning TV team. He offered particular thanks to Fox News boss Roger Ailes, "because if a fight breaks out on the field, you want Roger on your team."
CBS Senior VP of East Coast Operations Bob Ross got one of the night's first big laughs, beginning his acceptance speech by observing that "there are more egos per square inch in this room than I've seen anywhere."
A humble Ross remembered his surprise upon learning of his award and thanked his department heads and other support staff, his bosses Bruce Taub and Les Moonves, and in particular his wife, Liz, for putting up with his long hours and frequent travel. He then proceeded to deliver a serious message to the high-powered crowd, albeit with great humor: that engineers, particularly those in the lower ranks toiling in the "engine room" of broadcast and cable facilities, deserve more credit for keeping their businesses on-air.
Ross pointed out that the crowd was able to enjoy the night's rewards only because "you all have an operations and engineering department working for you" to maintain their network's signal, often in the basement of their facilities. Ross made it clear that he wasn't talking about top engineering executives like himself, but lower-level staffers who don't often get recognized for their dedication.
"It's the people down in the engine room," said Ross. "You've seen them--they wear pocket protectors, they've got a flashlight and a screwdriver, and they're always rushing to put out a fire somewhere."
Ross then asked top executives to complete a mission on behalf of engineers everywhere.
"Before the week ends, get out of your shiny 50th floor office, grab your SVP of engineering, and go find an engineer and give him a hug," he said. "Because they deserve it."
Initiative Worldwide CEO Richard Beaven kicked off his acceptance speech with his typical British understatement, saying he was humbled by his selection for the B&C Hall of Fame. "I'm glad I don't have to follow David Verklin, Canoe Ventures CEO," he quipped.
Beaven gave a shout-out to Initiative clients Bayer, Hyundai/Kia and Lionsgate among others who came to fete him, thanking them for their support. Beaven also thanked his colleagues, in particular boss Nick Brien, head of Mediabrands, the holding company which manages Interpublic's Groups media agencies. He called out Initiative achievements including negotiating the "most valuable spot in the Super Bowl."
"What we do is the ultimate contact sport," he said of the team effort inside advertising agencies. "Clients don't believe in half measures when it comes to what we do and we appreciate your business." He closed by citing his pre-teen kids as his Petri dish for future media. "My kids are redefining TV and how content is socialized."
Arriving at the Waldorf after completing his evening newscast, Brian Williams hailed Monday Night Football, the venerable primetime sports franchise that currently resides on ESPN, for forever altering how Americans spent their Monday nights. ESPN president George Bodenheimer, longtime MNF analyst Frank Gifford and current play-by-play man Mike Tirico accepted the honor on behalf of the franchise.
"We all share the pride in nurturing this institution as its creators and caretakers," said Bodenheimer. "Thank you for recognizing the role that sports plays in our culture."
Tirico gave props to Gifford, who he noted had appeared on 411 of MNF's 616 broadcasts, and said he was honored to follow him in the announcer's booth. "We are so proud to carry the torch," Tirico said.
Gifford recalled some of the memorable moments he experienced during the broadcast, including non-football news such as John Lennon's death. He also recalled working with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith, joking that Meredith would sometimes need to be reminded not only of the teams that were playing but what city they were in.
Next up was Univision's Jorge Ramos, whose journey to the anchor chair at the network began more than 26 years ago when he left his native Mexico because, he said, "I did not want to be a censored journalist." He called his induction into the Hall of Fame "the best revenge" for those who would seek to stanch the freedom of the press.
But once in America, it wasn't all smooth sailing. His English was passable, but he spoke with a thick accent. "I couldn't even understand myself," he joked.
Now Ramos is among the faces of the highest-rated Spanish language network and an influential voice in the growing U.S. Hispanic community. "This is a wonderful country for impossible stories like mine," he said. "This country gave me the freedom that unfortunately my country of origin could not," he added to loud applause from the crowd gathered at the Waldorf.
Univision, where Ramos has been for 23 years, "has become a home away from home," he said. "We share the American dream. The only difference is we broadcast in Spanish."
Cox Communications President Pat Esser went back 30 years in his induction speech, citing the year of 1979 as a seminal one in both his professional and personal life. That was the year he got involved in cable--his first job involved climbing poles and cutting in cable system taps--and met his wife, Connie.
He talked about his early days selling local cable system subscriptions in Iowa--"when you're incompetent and have no technical skills, they promote you to marketing," he joked--and packing all of his belongings into his car and driving to Virginia, where he began at Cox running public access channels.
Esser thanked his senior staff, many of whom were in attendance, and Cox's more than 22,000 workers. "I [didn't] know that some kid in Iowa would ever end up where I am today," Esser said, before giving another profound thanks to the cable operator that "took a chance on a guy like me."
A&E Networks CEO Abbe Raven recalled how she first landed a job at the network then known as Daytime, which would eventually become A&E. The network had an event at the lingerie department of Macys, and Raven came prepared with her resume. She would end up taking a job in the secretary pool, and hasn't left the company since. "What a ride it has been," Raven said. "I still love getting up to work at a company where no two days are exactly alike."
Raven also gave props to the newest network in the portfolio, Lifetime, noting that A&E now had three of the top 12 cable networks in Lifetime, A&E and History. "We are producing some of the best damn programming on television," Raven said.
TV One President/CEO Johnathan Rodgers began his remarks with a playful dig at host Williams' pitch-perfect laugh lines throughout the night. "Brian, if I'd have known you had this much personality, you'd still be the 6 o'clock anchor at Channel 2," quipped Rodgers, who was Williams boss at WCBS.
Rodgers talked about his love for television stemming from his childhood, including memories of watching Walter Cronkite and The Ed Sullivan Show. "Like all Americans, I joined in that collective experience," he said. Rodgers and his friends often talked about the programs they saw on TV--and what they didn't see on TV.
"Diversity wasn't even a word back then, but it didn't matter because it didn't exist," he said. Rodgers made up his mind to "gently" nudge the industry into a more diverse and more accurate representation of society.
Rodgers thanked people from the many different iterations of his career, including Bob Reid, now the executive VP/GM of The Africa Channel, who helped land Rodgers his first job and introduced him to his wife, Royal. The pioneering executive lauded the multichannel world, saying, "We have the ability to show all Americans as they would like to be seen."
Belo Corp. Senior Advisor Jack Sander said he was alternately humbled, overwhelmed, and reflective about his induction into the Hall of Fame. Mentioning his brother Dick in the crowd, Sander thanked their parents for building "great roots, great leadership and pure love" in the Sander clan, along with Jeanne, his wife of 44 years, who he called "the broadcast gypsy" and the glue of his family.
Sander also credited Belo for showing faith, trust and "incredible support" for his creative ideas for reinventing local television, and cited the leaders at both the NAB and BMI for their progressive thinking in the broadcasting world.
Shifting to reflective mode, Sander asked the attendees to ponder their local communities without local media, such as television and newspapers. "You won't like the outcome," he said, before mentioning both broadcasting and publishing's ability to be a vital source of local information and entertainment in the local market. "I know we can do great, great things," said Sander.
Canoe Ventures CEO David Verklin declared himself "an agency guy" in accepting his Hall of Fame honor. Verklin, who ran media agency Carat for many years, told the audience of some of the best pieces of advice he received during his career. "If you love what you do, it doesn't feel like work," said Verklin, whose current task is forging a national interactive ad platform for the six major cable operators.
Other pearls of wisdom he received from previous mentors: "Show me a guy with a client relationship and I'll show you a guy with a job"; "Never follow a super star"; and "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Verklin credited his big break in the industry with a former head of NBC ad sales, who told Verklin to try the agency business before trying sales at the network. "It only took me 31 years, but I'm getting into the B&C Hall of Fame," he concluded. He closed by acknowledging the difficult economy and urged ad agencies to "keep the faith."
After joking throughout the evening about the awkwardness of having to introduce his boss, Williams hailed Jeff Zucker's 22-year career at NBC and his rise from researcher at NBC Sports to youngest executive producer of the Today show to head of the network and ultimately president and CEO of NBC Universal.
Zucker began his brief remarks by addressing the elephant in the room: the prospect that Comcast could soon become a majority stakeholder in NBCU. "I want to thank [Comcast CEO] Brian Roberts for everything he's done for my career-oh, wait, that's next month's speech."
He added that he received the honor "just in the nick of time," joking that he "may not be in the broadcasting and cable business" this time next year.
But he followed the levity with an expression of gratitude, saying, "It would be easy to be jaded, but in truth, it's nice to be recognized."
He heaped praise on Williams, thanking him for "being such a fantastic symbol of all that is great" in the TV industry, and called attention to the event's charitable dimension: The Broadcasters Foundation of America, which comes to the aid of broadcasters in need, is a beneficiary and will share a portion of the proceeds.
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