Dennis Swanson, president of station operations for the Fox Television Stations Group, was B&C's first Broadcaster of the Year, in 2002. Since then, he has proved that it's hard to keep a good man down. He is perfectly suited for his latest post, having served Viacom as executive VP/COO for its station group after a colorful career that includes running both NBC flagship WNBC New York (his position when he was honored by B&C) and ABC's standout WLS Chicago, where he put Oprah Winfrey on the air and thereby helped create a legend.
Swanson moved to Fox last fall and is focused on increasing My Network TV's distribution throughout the country in advance of its September debut. Swanson was inducted into the B&C Hall of Fame in October. Interesting fact: This first Broadcaster of the Year is one of few TV executives who has had a top post at each of the Big Four networks.
Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of television and newspaper giant Tribune Co., was named Broadcaster of the Year in 2003. Since taking the reins of Tribune's TV business in 1992, FitzSimons has grown the media company's holdings from six stations to the 26 it owns today.
Many of Tribune's stations are bracing for big changes this fall, when The WB and UPN shut down and merge into The CW. Tribune was a co-owner of The WB, but, as part of the deal for the new network, is divesting its ownership and converting 16 of its WB affiliates to The CW. Three other Tribune stations will become independents.
The Broadcaster of the Year prize in 2004 went to David Barrett, president/CEO of Hearst-Argyle Television. Although his early career was in radio, when Barrett took over WBAL Baltimore, now one of Hearst-Argyle's strongest affiliates, he quickly learned what it takes to make a television station work.
Promoting Barrett to CEO of Hearst-Argyle Television in 2001, the station group has racked up a mantel-ful of honors, including Peabody and DuPont-Columbia awards, and educated countless viewers thanks to its practice of giving political candidates free air time.
Last year's honor went to Alan Frank, president/CEO of Post-Newsweek. After a successful turn as general manager at WDIV Detroit, Frank was promoted to run all six Post-Newsweek stations in 2000.
While his responsibilities have gotten broader, Frank remains focused on localism, calling Post-Newsweek's formula “a great combination of national ideas and local ideas.”
The centerpiece of that strategy is WJXT Jacksonville, Fla., a former CBS affiliate that is now among the most successful independents in the country.