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Giants of Broadcasting Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The Library of American Broadcasting is marking its 10th year of immortalizing industry greats. The 2012 edition of the Giants of Broadcasting include two career radio executives, pioneering television newsmen, a man who made a weekly commentary “must see TV,” and a man who helped launched the 24-hour news cycle.

That man is Ted Turner. He turned an upstart CNN into a worldwide cable news powerhouse. Within six years, CNN was in the black. There were the Atlanta Braves, eventually broadcast on his new station TBS. Turner also added the Atlanta Hawks to his prospectus.

Turner, who spoke briefly in his acceptance speech, talked about his proudest moment professionally in 1990 as the Gulf War began.

“I took a nap. When I woke up, I knew the war was coming, and I knew we had our people there. I turned on the television and clicked it over to NBC and there was Tom Brokaw talking. I switched over to CBS and there was Dan Rather talking in the studio. I switched it over to ABC and there was Peter Jennings talking in the studio,” Turner boasts. “Then I flashed it over to CNN, and there was the war. As a journalist, as a television news person, wasn’t that the greatest scoop of all time?”

Another major TV executive was recognized for his body of work. Sir Howard Stringer (above) had a 30-year association with CBS. The Wales-born Stringer, after earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees at the prestigious Oxford University, arrived in New York. His first job at the Tiffany Network was an entry level clerk logging commercial times at WCBS-TV/Channel 2.

Stringer is chairman of the board at Sony Corporation. FishbowlNY spoke to Stringer at the Giants of Broadcasting event. Watch the video clip after the jump.

Norman Lear, who couldn’t appear at today’s festivities at the Waldorf-Astoria, was the creator or developer of such trailblazing shows as All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons. Lear turned 90 in July.

Andy Rooney, the quintessential curmudgeon, worked for more than 60 years at CBS. He began in 1949 as Arthur Godfrey‘s writer on radio. Three years later, he and Godfrey made the leap to the burgeoning medium.

The career writer became a TV star in 1978 when he was given “a few minutes” to close 60 Minutes. Lesley Stahl, a longtime collegue, and 2010 “Giant of Broadcasting” honoree, accepted for Rooney, who died at 93 last November.

“He was the most popular and the bravest of us all on 60 Minutes,” Stahl says. “In our age of so many contradictions, with everyone needing to be loved, Andy didn’t sugarcoat. He was who he was, and that was that.”

The duo of Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer was named as honorees for their work together on PBS for more than two decades.  The PBS partnership started for the newsmen in 1973, providing gavel-to-gavel Watergate coverage. In 1975, the Robert MacNeil Report debuted on WNET/Channel 13, with Lehrer reporting from Washington while MacNeil anchored in New York.

MacNeil, in his acceptance speech, praises his longtime co-anchor.

“He has been my friend, my colleague, my business partner for nearly four decades,” MacNeil says. “In this very competitive business, to have as a partner someone you can trust absolutely, never to do anything to advance his own career at the expense of yours.”

Erica Farber has been a top-flight radio executive since the 1970s. Her career took off in 1975 when she was named general manager at RKO’s Boston station. A year later, the Texas-born Farber was promoted to vice president/general manager at RKO’s WXLO-FM in New York (the precursor of KISS 98.7).

Farber has held down virtually all positions in radio with the exception of hosting a daily show.

Longtime radio executive George Beasley was also honored yesterday. Beasley set a record in 1989 with his purchase of KRTH AM-FM in Los Angeles for $86.6. His business savvy paid serious dividends. He let the AM go for $24 million and the FM, after becoming a rating winner, was sold for $117 million in 1994.

Dinah Shore is known to an older generation for her 1950s variety show and signature signoff, throwing a kiss to viewers. The popular singer returned to TV in the 1970s with a daytime talk show, featured in the 1977 movie Oh, God!

Don Cornelius rounds out the 2012 Class. Cornelius’ legacy is cemented for having the Soul Train vision. Years later, the impressario reluctantly admitted that the show closely resembled Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand. However, he produced an entirely black music format, with black dancers, making Soul Train completely unique.

Tony Cornelius accepted the award for his father, who died tragically in February at the age of 75. The elder Cornelius committed suicide, a subject that has been become close to his son. He created the Don Cornelius Foundation, decidated to helping individuals who are contemplating suicide.

“If everyone in this house could save one, it would just be unbelievable,” Cornelius says.

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