It was a night with plenty of jokes and even some tears as more than 600 people turned out at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Oct. 24 to honor 10 of the TV and radio industry's top players inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
The 15th annual dinner's most emotional moments came from honoree Dick Ebersol. Last November, the NBC Sports chief—officially, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics chairman—was in a plane crash that killed his 14-year-old son, Teddy. Thousands of letters and e-mails from industry colleagues poured in following the tragedy. Receiving his award, a tearful Ebersol said he found, “particularly in the last year of my life, how much this industry is a family.”
Ebersol ended by remembering his son's humor. Teddy, his father said, used to keep his dad's ego in check: “'Never forget, you're Dick … head of NBC Sports.'”
Joining Ebersol in the hall are Tom Joyner, host of the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show; Uni­vision talk-show sensation Cristina Saralegui; and Star Trek and now Boston Legal star William Shatner. Other executives honored were a who's who of the industry: Insight Communications President/CEO Michael Willner; Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko; E.W. Scripps President/CEO Ken Lowe; new Fox Television Stations Group Operations President Dennis Swanson; Disney Media Networks Co-Chairman/President Disney-ABC Television Group Anne Sweeney; and Time Warner Chairman/CEO Dick Parsons.
In his remarks, Parsons said his ego was checked shortly after he arrived at the company in 1995, attending his first Oscar ceremony. As each car pulled up to the red carpet at the Shrine Theater, an attendant announced to the paparazzi what famous person was inside. When Parsons and then-Time Warner CFO Rich Bressler pulled up, the “talent scout” peered into the car and then yelled out to the photographers, “It's nobody!”
Radio-talk-show host Joyner poked fun at the award's size, saying, “For such a big honor, this is a very small award.” He dedicated his to his business partner, longtime radio executive David Kantor, for helping “super­serve” the African-American audience.
Willner's video featured a number of photos supplied by Insight staff of him in goofy poses, notably sticking out his tongue and showing off a considerable collection of Hawaiian shirts. “There's going to be heads rolling tomorrow!” he declared.
Noting that the room was filled with both cable and broadcasting executives, Willner said that he is periodically called upon to testify before Congress “on behalf of half of you and against the other half.”
Actually, though, it was a night of harmony and good cheer, hosted by MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville. It was all for a good cause. Two media-related charities, The Broadcasters' Foundation and Cable Positive, are beneficiaries of the event.