The IAC chief provided the only hint of drama today at the Library of American Broadcasting’s “Giants of Broadcasting” awards luncheon in NYC. Everyone wondered how Barry Diller — one of today’s 11 honorees — would deal with the fact that he supports Aereo. Most in the audience consider the streaming service to be illegal, and a threat. The IAC chief didn’t flinch: “It’s especially nice that I get this honor when many people in this room are suing me,” he said. He added, in jest, that “after you’re accused of stealing a few times, you get a little sensitive.” The former ABC exec, and creator of Fox Broadcasting, gently chided broadcasters as they demand rising fees from cable and satellite companies that retransmit their signals — and threaten to pull their best shows from the airwaves if courts support Aereo, which streams their programming without their permission. “I always believed broadcasters should have a second revenue stream” in addition to advertising, Diller said. But they need to be sensitive to the fact that “there are people who can’t afford cable or satellite.” He added that he’s glad he became a broadcaster years ago when it was clear that the industry should support the public interest — “values that were separate from competition, separate from business.” Still, he says, local broadcasting will endure and TV stations are “one of the great buys.”
As for the other honorees: David E. Kelley — who created Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal and other hits — said in a recorded address that he worries about growing pleas from execs for shows that might appeal to distracted smartphone and tablet users. “As a storyteller, that’s a little bit horrifying.” Dick Cavett got one of the biggest laughs: “God knows I’ve always wanted to be referred to as a giant.” BET founder Robert Johnson thanked Liberty Media’s John Malone whose early investment enabled the cable channel to take off. Former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley lamented broadcast regulations, including many he supported in the 1970s, that “no longer make sense.” Other inductees included Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, 60 Minutes‘ Morley Safer, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan, and news talent agents Richard Leibner and Carole Cooper.