Saying he was with America’s finest broadcast executives and partners in his effort to end childhood hunger in America, Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges accepted the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation (NABEF) Service to America Leadership award for “extraordinary public service for bettering the lives of others.”
Bridges made a brief appearance at the ceremony at the Washington Convention Center Monday night, but made the most of it, delivering a heartfelt request for broadcasters to keep airing his Public Service Announcement and calling on the audience to take the pledge. That would be the pledge to end childhood hunger by 2015.
Bridges was the co-founder in 1983 of the End Hunger Network and last year became a spokesman for the No Kid Hungry campaign that put that 2015 target on the back of childhood hunger.
Bridges said one in four children in America don’t get enough to eat and that it was not because there was not enough food in the country, or programs to help them, but because of a lack of access to those programs. NAB President Gordon Smith said there was no greater cause than taking care of kids.
Dinner host Deborah Norville spotlighted the importance of the ceremony for Smith, going off script to point out that he had chosen to spend his 36th wedding anniversary at the event.
The night was mostly about celebrating broadcast contributions to what NABEF Chair Bruce Reese called “unparalleled, unwavering public service that can’t be replicated.” Those included awards for a jazz music mentoring program, consumer reporting, adoption, overall excellence in news and public service, and a shout-out to station coverage of the recent tornados in the South and Midwest.
A number of regulators and legislators were in the audience and part of the program, including Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Robert McDowell. There were no overt appeals to the government not to force broadcasters off their spectrum, though the message was clear that broadcasters are a vital news and emergency information and public service medium. Norville came the closest to firing a shot when she called them the public’s airwaves, “not the government’s.”
Reese, in introducing the tornado coverage video, also pointed out that broadcasters had put their own lives at risk to tell that story.