A glitzy gala for Pe­abody Awards

Direc­tor says the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia is look­ing to raise the honor’s public pro­file.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio@la­times.com

When “The Col­bert Re­port” won its first Ge­orge Foster Pe­abody Award in 2008, Stephen Col­bert de­scribed it as “the award they would have given Shake­speare if Shake­speare had writ­ten lo­cal news.”

It’s true that tro­phies given out by the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia pay trib­ute to broad­cast jour­nal­ists who toil in places like Fort My­ers, Fla.; New Bri­tain, Conn.; and Cleve­land. But they also rec­og­nize many of the glam­orous scripted TV hits too, such as “Scan­dal,” “Mad Men” and “Or­ange Is the New Black.”

And th­ese days when­ever there are stars and a red car­pet, there are TV cam­eras. For the sec­ond straight year, fledg­ling ca­ble net­work Pivot will air the Pe­abody cer­e­mony. But this time it’s get­ting a glitzy up­grade as a night­time gala at Cipri­ani Wall Street in Man­hat­tan. Co­me­dian Fred Ar­misen was named Wed­nes­day as the host of the May 31 cer­e­mony, a role that has tra­di­tion­ally been han­dled by TV jour­nal­ists.

It doesn’t mean the 74year-old Pe­abodys are go­ing Hol­ly­wood. But Pe­abody direc­tor Dr. Jef­frey P. Jones said the uni­ver­sity is look­ing to raise the award’s public pro­file.

“There is so much out there and the Pe­abody board can play an im­por­tant role as cu­ra­tor,” Jones said.

Pivot’s cov­er­age of the awards will be taped and shown as a 90-minute primetime pro­gram in June. Jones does not rule out do­ing a live awards show in the fu­ture. But he be­lieves in the for­mat Pivot used last year, mix­ing clips of the hon­ored news sto­ries and pro­grams with back­stage in­ter­views.

“We’re try­ing to ex­tend the con­ver­sa­tion,” he said. “It’s about sto­ry­telling. It’s [still] a move away from cer­e­monies that are star driven and clothes driven.”

Pivot, which launched in 2014 and reaches 40 mil­lion ca­ble and satel­lite homes, was able to get TV rights for the Pe­abodys with­out a fee.

Kent Rees, gen­eral manager of the chan­nel owned by Par­tic­i­pant Me­dia, said the event will help ad­vance an im­age of pro­vid­ing “so­cially rel­e­vant” pro­gram­ming for 18- to 34-year olds.

And while Pivot will in­vest in up­grad­ing the cer­e­mony, which had a C-Span look when it aired on public TV in pre­vi­ous years, it will still em­pha­size sub­stance.

“It’s the only awards show in the world that cel­e­brates why you won rather than if you are go­ing to win,” he said.

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