Good Guys Finish First at NAB TV Awards

By Arthur Greenwald

Always a highlight of the NAB Convention, the Television Awards Luncheon honored three major figures known as much for helping others as for their own career achievements. NAB Television Board Chairman Jim Yager bestowed his Chairman’s Award on actor-director Kelsey Grammer, best known for over 20 years as Dr. Frasier Crane, on both the long-running Cheers and the eponymous Frasier.

Grammer’s introduction, however, made it clear he was being honored even more for his work as an executive producer. His Grammnet Productions is behind such hits as NBC’s Medium and The CW’s Girlfriends, which has advanced the careers of a great many African-American actors, writers, and directors. (Girlfriends star Tracee Ellis Ross emceed the luncheon with such comic flair that the audience buzzed with speculation about her talk-show–hosting potential.)

2009’s inductee into the NAB Hall of Fame was actor-comedian Bob Newhart, most famous for his classic standup routines and his two CBS sitcoms and well known in the comedy world for his generosity as a mentor to young talent. He joked that the honor was especially appreciated after a bookstore encounter with a fellow customer who remarked on his resemblance to Bob Newhart, who then asked, “Is he still alive?” Newhart, who continues to perform onstage and as a frequent co-star on screen, most certainly is.

Although both TV icons earned standing ovations. the most enthusiastic applause went to NAB Leadership Award winner Diane Sutter, president/CEO of ShootingStar Broadcasting.

A longtime station and group executive and owner of WZMY Boston, Sutter is the founder of the NAB’s Broadcast Leadership Training Program for Women and Minorities sponsored by the NAB Education Foundation. She also serves as dean and chief instructor of the 10-month MBA-style program that teaches skills needed to become a station owner or group executive.

Now in its ninth year, the program boasts more than 150 graduates, two dozen of whom were introduced in the audience to another wave of applause.

In introducing the Leadership Award, Yager emphasized Sutter’s extraordinary devotion and time commitment to the “BLT Program,” which is taught over 10 weekends — requiring Sutter to travel to Washington 10 times a year from her Los Angeles home (60 times) or her Boston-area station (30 times). She receives no pay for this work.

An introductory video featured a number of industry luminaries, including Morgan Murphy Group President Elizabeth Murphy Burns, who called Sutter “a poster-child example of someone who gives back to our industry,” and FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who said Sutter’s reputation as a broadcaster “brought instant credibility to the leadership program.”

Murphy and Copps are among many industry leaders who regularly appear as guest lecturers in the program.

Several graduates of the program were also featured in the video, including DuJuan McCoy, president/owner of fledgling station group Bayou City Broadcasting. McCoy was straightforward in his praise for Sutter. “There’s no way I’d be in this position without Diane and her course.”

In her acceptance speech, Sutter thanked several people but singled out her own mentor, station executive Bill Clark, who made her head of Shamrock Broadcasting’s television-station group, then included her in high-level investment and regulatory meetings.

“Unfortunately, not everyone has their own Bill Clark,” remarked Sutter. Of course, thanks to Sutter, more than 150 station executives now do.

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