Prestige of Peabodys finally graces television medium

— At last, a medium the Peabodys have done much to elevate is returning the favor with some coast-to-coast face time.

This comes courtesy of A&E;, where the 62nd annual Peabody awards will air at 3 p.m. Sunday.

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AP Photo

ABC News' Ted Koppel addresses guests after accepting his Peabody Award for "Nightline -- Heart of Darkness," at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Television's most prestigious awards will now be given out on television. This comes courtesy of A&E, where the 62nd annual Peabody awards will air Sunday.

It's only fitting.

For six decades, the Peabodys -- which honor outstanding achievement from around the world in television, radio and emerging media like CD-ROMs and the Web -- have been presented at a private luncheon each spring. There's no razzle-dazzle, no red carpet, no whipped-up suspense (the recipients are announced weeks earlier).

It was the same on Monday, at a $300-a-plate affair in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Charles Gibson, anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America," was master of ceremonies, and 31 Peabodys were bestowed.

What's different now, thanks to A&E;: You can share in paying tribute.

Meanwhile, you may gain a sense of why the people who win Peabodys, or aspire to, place them in a class all their own.

"This is the top of the mountain," William Mastrosimone sums up as he accepts his Peabody for "Bang Bang You're Dead," the Showtime film he wrote about school violence.

The other recipients echo his appraisal.

"Everybody in the industry knows what the Peabodys mean," A&E; executive Delia Fine explained. "The reason we are airing the ceremony is because everybody else needs to be aware, as well."

In recent years, it was carried by a limited number of public TV outlets, but has never been seen on this scale.

"It's an experiment that we felt was worthy and important to do," Fine said.

The George Foster Peabody Awards are administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, and have been since 1941.

There are no "major" or "minor" levels of accomplishment.

Nor are there fixed categories or even an annual quota of winners: The medallions are given each year as merit justifies.

Rather than by peer voting (as with the Emmys and Oscars), the Peabodys are decided by a board of 15 judges who come from diverse backgrounds including the arts, education, journalism and government.

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