The winners of the 65th Annual Peabody Awards were announced April 5 by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The winners, chosen by the Peabody board as the best in electronic media for 2005, were named in a ceremony in UGA’s Peabody Gallery.
The Peabody recipients—from three continents and in seven languages—reflect the international scope of the competition. They range from television stations in Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans that provided heroic coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall and aftermath, to Yesterday, a South African film that personalized the continent’s AIDS crisis. They include a Spanish documentary about China, the dramatic serials Battlestar Galactica and Bleak House, Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home—Bob Dylan and WNYC’s Radio Rookies Project, which enables young people to find voices on radio. Multiple citations were awarded to HBO, the BBC and WGBH-Boston.
The awards will be presented June 5 in New York City. Jon Stewart, anchor of Comedy Central’s two-time Peabody Award winner, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, will be the master of ceremonies.
“As is the case every year, submissions for consideration by the Peabody board provide insight into the astonishing array of electronic media productions,” says Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. “These are the works self-selected by creators and producers as their very best work from the previous calendar year. This year’s Peabody Award recipients stand as hallmarks of excellence in news, documentary, comedy, drama, education and public service.”
Battlestar Galactica, a drama about a war-ravaged, homeless civilization attempting to begin anew, gave the SCI FI Channel its first Peabody. Also new to the winners’ circle were two other basic-cable channels. FX Networks won for the intense police serial The Shield and Sundance Channel for presenting The Staircase, French filmmaker Jean Xavier de Lestrade’s eight-part documentary about a North Carolina murder case.
In addition to The Shield and Battlestar, three other entertainment series with devout followings got nods from the Peabody judges. They were House, a Fox medical drama about a brilliant, misanthropic diagnostician; ABC’s Boston Legal, a David E. Kelley dramedy that uses a blue-chip Beantown law firm’s civil cases as springboards to comment about issues from the death penalty to credit-card companies’ predatory practices to morning-after contraceptives; and South Park, Comedy Central’s notoriously rude, undeniably fearless lampoon of all that is self-important and hypocritical in American life, regardless of race, creed, color or celebrity status.
International winners also included CBC/Radio-Canada for What If Winter Never Comes? (Et si l’hiver ne venait plus?), a report on how global warming is affecting the Arctic and the Inuit people who live there; Madrid’s TVE for China: A Million Steps Ahead, which dealt with that country’s staggering rural-to-urban shift and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. for its ear-opening, eight-part radio documentary The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music.
Various arms of the British Broadcast Corp. received Peabodys. The BBC won for This World BBC: Bad Medicine, “a brave investigation of international trafficking in fake drugs,” and as co-producer with WGBH of an exemplary dramatization of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House.
The BBC Factual and Learning department, in partnership with the drama division, were honored for BBC DoNation Season: Life on the List, a multi-media campaign to encourage organ donations. BBC America’s winner was Viva Blackpool, a musical drama both grittily and giddily creative.
HBO’s versatility was similarly demonstrated by its wins for the South African-produced film Yesterday; a documentary, Children of Beslan, about the aftermath of terrorists’ taking a Russian elementary school hostage in September 2004; and its Classical Baby, an inventive, whimsical marriage of animation to classical music.
For the second consecutive year, Showtime received an award for an original movie. Edge of America, based on real incidents, illuminated two minority cultures with its story of an African-American teacher-coach taking a job at an American Indian-reservation school in Utah.
Local TV stations scored four 2005 -Peabodys. WWL and WLOX, the broadcasters in New Orleans and Biloxi, respectively, were cited for their comprehensive Hurricane Katrina coverage. KNBC-TV in Burbank, Calif., won for Burning Questions, its investigative series about an apartment development built on a toxic and potentially flammable site. And KCNC-TV in Denver won for How Far Will the Army Go?, an unusual expose that incorporated a teen journalist’s hidden-camera footage of desperate Army recruiters explaining how to forge a diploma and beat a drug test. Peabody judges called it “funny and frightening at the same time.”
The challenge of covering Katrina also brought out the best in two national news organizations. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and CNN both were awarded Peabodys for their multifaceted efforts.