Peabody Awards for BBC, ITV and Channel 4

Jon SnowThe Peabody Awards, the oldest awards in broadcasting, are considered among the most prestigious and selective prizes in electronic media. Last night the 72nd gong show took place with Channel 4, BBC One and ITV featuring in the the line up which celebrates the achievements of last years broadcasting.

“Our list of Peabody recipients for 2012 demonstrates the range of superb work,” Horace Newcomb, Director of the Peabody Awards said. “From local to national to international, from radio to television, broadcast to cable to web, the Peabody sets the goals for every type of media production.  We’ll continue to do this, no matter how the world of electronic media develops.”

First presented in 1941, the George Foster Peabody Awards recognise excellence in television and radio broadcasting, as well as by webcasters, producing organisations and individuals. The awards program is administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Selection is made each spring by the Peabody Board, a 16-member panel of distinguished academics, television critics, industry practitioners and experts in culture and the arts.

For Channel 4 and ITN Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished was amongst the prestigious winners.

The powerful follow-up film to Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, Jon Snow’s critically-acclaimed investigation into the final weeks of the war between the government and Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished accumulated powerful new evidence including contemporaneous documents, eye-witness accounts, photographic stills and videos relating to how exactly events unfolded during the final days of the civil war. It featured new chilling video footage of five men and a child who had been executed.

When the film was broadcast last year it had impact internationally causing uproar in both the Houses of Parliament in India – the upper house’s session had to be adjourned after politicians from the south of the country, which has a large Tamil population, criticised the government’s failure to pressure Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes as part of a reconciliation process.

Both ‘Killing Fields’ films built on the work of Channel 4 News which first revealed the existence of trophy execution footage and were produced by ITN Factual and directed by Callum Macrae with Zoe Sale as producer.

The same team have now released their first feature-length film about the final bloody months of the Sri Lankan civil war in March. No Fire Zone represents the culmination of three years of journalistic investigation and contains deeply disturbing new evidence, powerful eye witness testimony and compelling personal stories of survival in a war zone. It presents a devastating indictment of the men responsible for the crimes and an exposé of the failure of the international community to prevent this catastrophe.

Doctor WhoChannel 4 was just one of thirty-nine recipients of a Peabody Award. Others announced by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication include ITV for a pair of documentaries from the Exposure series firstly, The Other Side of Jimmy Savile dealt sensationally with posthumous revelations that a beloved, knighted TV star was an alleged, but unproven, sexual predator and Banaz: An Honour Killing detailed the case of an independent-minded Kurdish-British woman murdered by her own family.

Doctor Who, the ever-evolving, ever-clever BBC One science fiction series now entering its second half century, was awarded an Institutional Peabody, as was Michael Apted’s remarkable Up series of documentaries that have assayed the lives of 14 Britons at seven-year intervals since 1964.

“Reviewing submissions for Peabody consideration is a truly exciting process,” said Horace Newcomb, Director of the Peabody Awards.  “Producers and organizations send us their best work from the previous year.  It is an astonishing array of outstanding media accomplishment.  From this array, we must select the ‘best of the best.’  It’s not always easy, but it always demonstrates the meaning of true excellence in electronic media.”

Other entertainment winners included the FX series Louie, comedian Louis C.K.’s serrated, boundary-testing take on being a single, showbiz dad; Southland, TNT’s richly nuanced drama about Los Angeles police; Inside the National Recording Registry and Switched at Birth an ABC Family drama whose multicultural elements include major characters who are deaf.

Peabodys also went to Game Change, an HBO film about how Sarah Palin was catapulted into the national political spotlight, and D.L. Hughley: The Endangered List, a mock documentary on Comedy Central USA in which the comedian campaigned to get black men the “same EPA protections” as the Kaman cave cricket and the Texas kangaroo rat.

ABC News’ presciently planned, comprehensive coverage of Superstorm Sandy was honored with a Peabody, as was CNN’s thorough, voluminous and well-contextualized Coverage Inside Syria and Homs 2012.

These 39 Peabodys will be formally presented at a luncheon ceremony on May the 20th at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Scott Pelley, anchor of The CBS Evening News, will be this year’s emcee.

[Reported by Mike Watkins]