CPB Lifetime Achievement Award

With its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to public media over his or her lifetime.

Newton N. Minow

In 2012, the board of directors recognized Newton N. Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and one of the founding fathers of public broadcasting. He was honored for transforming the landscape of American television in the 1960s by putting the concepts of public interest and public service at the forefront of this emerging medium and by encouraging the spread of educational television, known today as public television, across the country. Minow is the seventh person to receive this award.

“Newt Minow felt strongly that television should do more than entertain; it should inspire and enrich lives,” said Patricia Cahill, chair of the CPB board of directors. “His vision led to the creation of public media—in service to all citizens and committed to creating a strong, informed civil society.”

After serving in the China, Burma, India Theater during World War II, Minow began his public career in the administration of Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson and then in Stevenson’s presidential campaigns during the 1950s. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Minow, then 34, to chair the FCC.

During the two years he held that position, Minow became the first FCC chairman specifically to challenge the content of television programming and to urge significant reform, famously characterizing the medium as a “vast wasteland.” He also fostered several significant initiatives that altered the landscape of American television, including the All-Channel Receiver Act of 1961, which mandated UHF reception capability for all television receivers. This legislation spurred an increase in the number of television stations and helped launch nonprofit, educational television stations throughout the country, which eventually became the modern-day public media system. He also led the development of communication satellites.

After leaving the FCC, Minow served as an executive and director of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. In 1965, he became a managing partner of the Chicago-based international law firm Sidley Austin LLP, where he is currently senior counsel. He served on the board of governors of PBS from 1973 to 1980 and as its chairman from 1978 to 1980. He is the Walter Annenberg professor emeritus at Northwestern University and a past chairman of the Carnegie Corporation and the RAND Corporation, as well as the author of four books and numerous professional journal and magazine articles.

Ralph Lowell Award

The Ralph Lowell Award is the most prestigious public media award honoring an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to public television. The award is named after the late Boston philanthropist and founder of WGBH.

Rebecca Eaton

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting presented the 2011 Ralph Lowell Award to Rebecca Eaton, who has been executive producer of Masterpiece for more than 26 of its 41 years on the air and who was recognized for ensuring that the series upholds a high standard of excellence, not just for public media but for American television as a whole.

She has produced some of the highest-quality television dramas, including the break-out hit Downton Abbey, which was watched by more than 17 million people, and has increased the audience for the celebrated series through her collaborations with A-list talent and producers.

Under Eaton’s leadership, Masterpiece has collected 65 Primetime Emmy Awards, 18 George Foster Peabody Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and dozens of other industry awards.

Since taking over the helm of the Masterpiece series in 1986, Eaton has been responsible for such high-profile titles as Prime Suspect, Bleak House and recent hits including Sherlock, the new Upstairs Downstairs and, as mentioned above, Downton Abbey.

In addition to curating the best in U.K. productions, Eaton twice launched major productions featuring American writers. Under her leadership, WGBH presented The American Collection, a series of adapted works from authors such as Langston Hughes, Willa Cather and Henry James. The production allowed Masterpiece to work with some of Hollywood’s finest talent in front of and behind the camera. Hughes’ Cora Unashamed was one of PBS’s highest-rated shows.

Masterpiece created another landmark for PBS when it launched the American Mystery specials, co-produced with Robert Redford and based on the popular Tony Hillerman novels featuring Native American characters, actors and stories.

Eaton is credited with creating a renaissance of Masterpiece in 2008, breaking it into three program strands (Classic, Mystery!, and Contemporary) and drawing in younger viewers with programming such as The Complete Jane Austen. The series experienced a 15 percent increase in viewers in the first year; 45 percent in the second year; and 107 percent last year.

Beyond the small screen, Eaton established The Masterpiece Trust, which created an opportunity for viewers to directly support the series. In just under two years, the trust has generated nearly $3 million for the series and for local public television stations nationwide.

Eaton began her production career as an assistant for the BBC World Service in London. Returning to the United States, she was hired by WGBH in Boston in 1972, where she produced Pantechnicon (a radio arts magazine) and the television programs Zoom and Enterprise.

Her distinguished career has earned her an honorary OBE (Officer, Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II. She also was recognized on TIME magazine’s 2011 list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Eaton was born in Boston and raised in Pasadena, Calif. She graduated from Vassar in 1969 with a degree in English literature.

CPB Thought Leader Awards

With its CPB Thought Leader Awards, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting recognizes leading advocates of public media for their steadfast support and ongoing commitment to champion its value and service to the nation. Through a series of talks and conversations, CPB engages American leaders in business, government, science, history, education, journalism and the arts to discuss the essential service public media provides to our country and our democracy. The Thought Leader Series also highlights the value American citizens receive from the public and private funding provided for this service.

The Honorable Tom Ridge

Tom Ridge, a former member of Congress, governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who is now president and CEO of Ridge Global, was the inaugural speaker in CPB’s Thought Leader Series.

As governor of Pennsylvania, Ridge provided funding to the state’s public television stations to pioneer the delivery of digital television programming. His commitment to public media enabled Pennsylvania’s public television stations to better serve their local audiences and helped the state become a leader in the digital conversion.

“Public media is unique in its connection to the communities it serves; its programming, which is driven not by commercial interests but by the needs of local viewers; and in addressing the social and economic issues that are important to Americans,” Ridge said. “This commitment to local service is at the heart of public media’s mission. I am honored to receive this recognition, and I am committed to supporting the important work of public media stations nationwide.”

Tom Ridge was elected to Congress in 1982. He was one of the first Vietnam combat veterans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was overwhelmingly re-elected by Pennsylvania voters five times.

He was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1995 to 2001, when, following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, he became the first assistant to the president for Homeland Security. On January 24, 2003, he became the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Currently, as president and CEO of Ridge Global, he leads a team of international experts who help businesses and governments address a range of needs, including risk management, security and infrastructure protection, emergency preparedness and response, energy, maritime management and strategic growth.

Anna Deavere Smith

In July, CPB recognized Anna Deavere Smith, actress and playwright, for her steadfast support of public media’s commitment to the arts, education and storytelling.

At the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference in Seattle, where she was joined by Patricia Harrison, CPB president and CEO, Smith discussed how to help students succeed in the classroom and beyond by “switching on their power of genius.” The conversation was part ofAmerican Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative made possible by CPB to help communities across the country identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis.

“We are proud to honor Anna Deavere Smith as a thought leader,” Harrison said. “She is a champion of the service that public radio and television stations across the country provide to their local communities, and a strong supporter of helping young people access their unique talents and gifts to keep them on a path to a promising future.”

Smith is said to have created a new theater form. She is the recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, two Tony nominations and several other awards and prizes. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Smith’s most recent one-person show, Let Me Down Easy, toured the United States and was broadcast on Great Performances. She has appeared in Nurse Jackie, The West Wing, The American President and Philadelphia. She has received several honorary degrees, among them from Juilliard, University of Pennsylvania, Spelman and Williams, and she is a recipient of the Radcliffe Medal. Smith is University Professor at NYU and founding director of Anna Deavere Smith Works, which supports artists from around the world whose work addresses issues of social justice.