The winners of the 63rd annual Peabody Awards were announced last week by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The 29 award winners for excellence in electronic media, chosen from more than 1,100 entries, included an Individual Peabody to Bill Moyers, the first Peabody given to a Web site, joint recognition of MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation for public service, and BBC America’s comedy The Office.
The awards will be presented May 17 in New York. Katie Couric, co-anchor of NBC’s Today and contributing anchor for Dateline NBC, will host the ceremony.
“Of note in 2003 was the similarity of coverage on the international front, such as the war in Iraq, and the apparent difficulties encountered by entertainment shows to make their way through the welter of ‘reality’ programming,” says Peabody director Horace Newcomb. “That said, we are deeply proud of all the winners, who demonstrate that high standards can be maintained in the flood of images and messages streaming into our homes every day.”
This year’s winners included BBC2’s “Israel’s Secret Weapon,” a report exposing Israel’s nuclear weapons program, and BBC America’s acclaimed comedy The Office, which airs domestically on BBC America. Two more international programs were cited this year: ZDF German TV’s “Chavez: Inside the Coup,” a behind-the-scenes view of the events that temporarily overthrew Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; and from Japan’s TV Asahi, “Mother Flew Away as a Kite,” an arresting animated recounting of the last days of World War II.
NBC News won a Peabody for “A Question of Fairness,” Tom Brokaw’s look into the controversy surrounding the University of Michigan and its affirmative action policy. CBS News won the only other network Peabody for “60 Minutes: All in the Family,” its investigation into conflicts of interest and abuses of power by government and military contractors.
HBO was honored with three Peabody Awards: “The Wire,” recognized by the Peabody board as “one of the most intense and complex narratives television viewers have seen”; “War Photographer,” an HBO documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer James Nachtwey; and “To Live Is a family’s grim struggle with HIV/AIDS in rural China.
Showtime received a Peabody for the drama Soldier’s Girl. This sensitive portrayal of transgender romance with tragic consequences is based on a true story.
Also honored with a Peabody was Dora the Explorer, from MTV Networks/Nickelodeon, a children’s multilingual series that teaches young viewers Spanish phrases, emphasizing the importance of multilingual education.
Bill Moyers was cited for career achievement, most recently for his series NOW with Bill Moyers and the documentary “Becoming American: The Chinese Experience.”
In a Peabody Award first, a Web program will be honored this year: Transom.org, an experiment in channeling new work and voices to public radio through the Internet. The site was noted for “bringing new voices into the media mix.”
P.O.V. was recognized twice by the Peabody board for inventive and challenging programming that aired on PBS: “Flag Wars,” an account of disputes between cultures and classes in Columbus, Ohio; and “Two Towns of Jasper,” the troubling story of a lynching examined by two film crews, one white and one black.
MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s public service campaign, “Fight for Your Rights: Protect Yourself Public Education Partnership,” was cited as a comprehensive media campaign about avoiding HIV/AIDS.
Minnesota Public Radio’s series and Web site American Mavericks won a Peabody for exploring American classical music. WEKU-FM, a public station at Eastern Kentucky University, won for “Sisters in Pain,” a documentary about incarcerated women, their rehabilitation and their reprieve.
Five TV stations won Peabodys: “Evidence of Errors,” from KHOU-TV, Houston, detailed thousands of errors at the Houston Police Department’s crime laboratory that resulted in the conviction of innocent people; “Housing Investigation,” from WESH-TV, Winter Park, Fla., exposed shoddy new-home construction; “Honor and Betrayal: Scandal at the Academy,” by KMGH-TV, Denver, was a scathing report on sexual assaults against female cadets at the Air Force Academy; “Medicaid Centers Dental Investigation,” from WCNC-TV, Charlotte, N.C., uncovered a scam involving unnecessary treatments for children; and “Beating the Odds,” by KRON-TV, in San Francisco, raised more than $2.3 million to send poor students to college.
WGBH produced three Peabody Award winners that aired on PBS: The Elegant Universe, a three-part series and Web site about string theory, one of the most controversial topics in science; “Frontline: A Dangerous Business,” a collaboration with the New York Times and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, about the risks to which a manufacturing company puts its workers; and “The Murder of Emmett Till,” part of the American Experience series, which chronicled a racially motivated lynching that helped mobilize the civil rights movement.
Also exploring race relations in America is a Peabody winner from the University of Memphis. “Hoxie: The First Stand” is the story of how a small town in Arkansas integrated its schools in the 1950s in the face of strong opposition.
Thirteen/WNET and PBS was lauded for “Great Performances: Degas and the Dance,” a beautiful documentary that examines the life and paintings of the French impressionist and his connection to the Paris Opera and its dancers.
PBS won its seventh Peabody for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: Jobless Recovery: Non-Working Numbers,” which showcased Paul Solman’s entertaining and lucid explanations of complicated economic issues.