|Awarded for||Distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by television and radio stations, networks, producing organizations, individuals and the World Wide Web.|
|Presented by||Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia|
The George Foster Peabody Awards (or simply Peabody Awards) program, named for businessman and philanthropist George Peabody, recognizes distinguished and meritorious public service by radio and television stations, networks, online media, producing organizations, and individuals.
Reflecting excellence in quality, rather than popularity or commercial success, the Peabody is awarded to about 25–35 winners annually from more than 1,000 entries. Because submissions are accepted from a wide variety of sources and styles, deliberations seek "Excellence On Its Own Terms."
Each entry is evaluated on the achievement of standards it establishes within its own contexts. Entries are self-selected by those making submissions, for which a US$300 fee (US$175 for radio) is required.
In 1939, the National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to recognize outstanding achievement in radio broadcasting. Committee member Lambdin Kay, public-service director for WSB radio in Atlanta, Georgia at the time, is credited for creating the award, named for businessman and philanthropist George Foster Peabody, who donated the funds that made the awards possible. Fellow WSB employee Lessie Smithgall introduced Lambdin to John E. Drewry, of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady School of Journalism, who endorsed the idea. The Peabody Award was established in 1940 with the school, now the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, as its permanent home.
The Peabody Awards were originally only for radio, but in 1948 television awards were introduced. In the late 1990s additional categories for material distributed via the World Wide Web were added. Materials created solely for theatrical motion picture release are not eligible.
The Peabody Awards judging process is unusually rigorous. Evaluation of the more than 1,000 entries typically received begins in early February with some 30 committees composed of a number of University of Georgia faculty or staff members and selected students. Each committee is charged with screening or listening to a small number of entries and delivering written recommendations to the Peabody Board, a ~16-member panel of scholars, critics and media-industry professionals. Board members discuss recommended entries as well as their own selections at intensive preliminary meetings in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The Board convenes at the Peabody Offices on the University of Georgia campus in late March for final screenings and deliberations. Each entrant is judged on their own merit, and only unanimously selected programs receive Peabodys. There is no set number of Peabodys; the all-time record for Peabody recipients in a single year is 46 Awards in 2013.
- George Foster Peabody (1852–1938), namesake of the awards, was a highly successful investment banker who devoted much of his fortune to education and social enterprise.
- Lambdin Kay was the awards chairman for The National Association of Broadcasters when he was asked to create a prize to honor the nation's premier radio programs and performances, as the Pulitzer did for the print press.
- John E. Drewry (1902–1983) was the first dean of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He accepted the position of dean when it was created in 1940. That same year he helped Lambdin Kay, general manager of Atlanta's WSB Radio, create the Peabody Awards recognizing excellence in broadcasting.
- Dr. Worth McDougald (1926–2007) served as Director of the Peabody Awards program from 1963 until his retirement in 1991.
- Barry Sherman (1952–2000) was the Director of the George Foster Peabody Awards program at the University of Georgia from 1991 until his death in 2000.
- Horace Newcomb held the Lambdin Kay Chair for the Peabodys in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia from 2001 to 2013.
- Jeffrey P. Jones succeeded Horace Newcomb in July 2013 as the Lambdin Kay Chair for the Peabodys in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
The Peabody Awards are formally presented each year in late May or early June at a luncheon in New York City. Past hosts include Walter Cronkite, Lesley Stahl, Jackie Gleason, Jon Stewart, Morley Safer, and Larry King.
In March 2014, it was announced that the American digital cable and satellite television channel Pivot signed a multi-year contract to broadcast the ceremonies. The 2014 honorees were announced on April 2, in part on CBS This Morning and concluded on the Peabodys' website. An official presentation ceremony will be held on May 19, 2014, with Pivot's broadcast date still to be announced.
Peabody Awards Archive
The Peabody Awards Collection is the flagship of The Walter J. Brown Media Archive & Peabody Awards Collection. The archives are housed in the "Special Collections Library" near the north campus of The University of Georgia. The archives mission is to preserve, protect, and provide access to the moving image and sound materials that reflect the collective memory of broadcasting and the history of the state of Georgia and its people. The collection contains nearly every entry for the first major broadcast award given in the United States. Entries begin in 1940 for radio and 1948 for television, and at least 1,000 new entries are received every year—programs created by local, national, and international producers. The collection provides a cultural cross-section of television from its infancy to the present day, featuring news, documentary, entertainment, educational, and children's programming. Once judging is complete all the entries are moved to the Main Library for in-depth cataloging, access, and long term preservation.
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- UGA Libraries