Broadcasters saluted at NAB summit

Reporters, news producers praised by Ridge and Giuliani

The morning keynote at NAB Education Foundation's Service to America Summit in Washington last week was a nearly standing-room-only affair. There were certainly quite a few people there to talk about public service, including NAB's new $9.9 billion total for local- station community service ( BC Eye, June 10). The unexpectedly big draw, however, was Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, whose appearance came just days after President Bush announced plans for a cabinet-level Homeland Security position. "Your timing was impeccable," Ridge told the NAB crowd. "I might consider borrowing your crystal ball in the future."

When asked by a New York Times
reporter whether he would get the cabinet job, Ridge's own crystal ball clouded up (although NAB head Eddie Fritts's introduction seemed to suggest he would get it), but Ridge showed no reticence regarding broadcasters' contributions post-9/11.

Coincidentally, another name mentioned as a possible candidate for the Homeland Security post bookended the daylong summit: former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who received the Service to America leadership award (on behalf of all New Yorkers) at an evening awards banquet honoring broadcasters and others for their public-service efforts (BROADCASTING & CABLE was a co-sponsor). He, too, had high praise for broadcasters.

In his speech, Ridge cited broadcasters as the "unblinking eyes and ears" of the nation in the aftermath of 9/11. As such, he said, "you accepted the reality of lost ad revenues at a time when advertising was already scarce. No matter the cost, you continued to get the news out." He also cited broadcasters for raising more than $1 billion for 9/11 relief efforts and pointed out that even one old, very high-profile critic, former FCC Chairman Newton Minow, had high praise for the medium he once labeled a wasteland. "Television deserved a round of gratitude from the American people for the way they have handled this crisis," he quoted Minow as having recently said. "They deserve the highest praise."

Ridge said broadcasters now had "one of the most important, if not the
most important, stories of our lifetime" to report: homeland security. Such coverage, he said, will be difficult: "It can be under-reported, breeding false confidence, or over-reported, stoking unnecessary fears."

Capping NAB's summit was Giuliani's speech, in which he applauded broadcasters for their "unbelievable bravery and courage," adding that perhaps they should get an award for their relatively unsung courage. "They helped us to communicate that day. They never withdrew; they never backed off," he said. "They were doing their job, and it was an enormously important one ... communicating to people in the middle of an emergency the things they needed to know ... to save their lives. And maybe we wouldn't have saved as many if they hadn't done that."

Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart received the Samaritan award for her support for children's charities, Emmis Communications was saluted for its philanthropy, and numerous local broadcasters were honored for community-service efforts.

NAB also took the opportunity of the daylong event to showcase the Broadcast Leadership Training Program's class of 2002. The program is a 10-month, one-weekend-a-month executive-training program for broadcast execs aspiring to be group owners and CEOs.