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The Guardian Fund: Taking Care of Our Own

BFA director urges broadcasters not to forget their roots

Dick Foreman, our dedicated and dynamic Vice Chairman, recently dispatched a powerful, timely and rather pointed note (it didn’t pull any punches!) to a fellow broadcaster who had turned a deaf ear to our recent pleadings and importunings on behalf of the Broadcasters Foundation of America.

Foreman’s good letter got me to thinking about how to reach those who haven’t yet gotten the message.

“Don’t let us forget who we are … and where we’ve come from,” said Mario M. Cuomo.

Through our work with the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, we’ve encountered many generous individuals, some now retired with their glory years behind them, and many still in the arena, who have unhesitatingly responded with remarkable grace and becoming generosity to our entreaties on behalf of those hurting and almost forgotten broadcasters we serve all across the country.

The names of these consistent contributors are writ large in our hearts (and also in our annual reports). We, all of us, make our living with words (in my case usually inartfully, awkwardly and imprecisely). But how do we find the proper words to convey our great gratitude to Stan Hubbard, Bob Bennett, Mel Karmazin, Dan Mason, David Barrett, Phil Lombardo, Ward Quaal, Dick Foreman, Laurie and Rob Taishoff, Ed McLaughlin, Stu Olds, Rick Buckley, Lowry Mays, Mac Tichenor, Jeff Smulyan, Jeff Warshaw, Ron Morey, Deborah Norville, Roger Ailes, Joe Field, Joe Amaturo, Marty Pompadur, George Beasley, Herb Siegel, Phil Beuth, Bob Sillerman, Charles Osgood, Perry Sook, Senator Gordon Smith, Dennis Fitzsimmons, Howard Stern, Maury Povich, Dick Bodorff, Alan Frank, Louis Hillelson, Bill McGorry and our friends at B&C, Scotty and Norman Knight, Dennis Swanson, Jim Yager, Alex Trebek, Bob Schmidt, Bob Pittman, Ralph Guild, Jim Beloyianis, Norman Drubner, the Blackburn brothers, Tom Murphy, George Stephanopoulos, Nick Verbitsky, Mehmet Oz, Matt Lauer, Regis Philbin, Wade Hargrove, Del Bryant, Mike O’Neill and those others who bless our efforts and Mission with substantial annual contributions to the all-important Guardian Fund.

However, if the truth be told, our efforts have also, on occasion, met with some individuals in whom our humanitarian mission does not at all resonate. They profess admiration for our work. But their charitable giving goes far afield from the profession which was so good to them and to all of us.

I’m not trying to diminish or demean any of their other enthusiasms or beneficences. But in many cases, if you’ll allow me, all their hard-earned wealth and holdings, their reputation, standing and stature all proceed from their work as broadcasters. And all their privileges, prerogatives and perquisites flow from those endeavors.

Fortunately, those who take … and put nothing back … are few and far between. But for those who have not yet “tuned in” to the noble work and mission of your foundation we are left with only the lessons of history.

For in the end it matters not that the poet Lord Byron swam the Hellespont, that André Malraux, another man of letters, flew in combat during the Spanish Civil War — or even that he was a minister of Cultural Affairs. It is also of minor interest that the great writer and journalist Hemingway shot lions in Africa. In the end only their work matters.

Another example which instructs us is Frank Sinatra and his achingly beautiful songs. He was a swashbuckler with the dames and his turbulent, glamorous life was attended by contradiction and even touched with danger. He also made some movies. But his music, his recordings are what really matters — still. His work.

In the cases of many/most we solicit … their finest work, their vocation, if you will, was broadcasting. And they never looked on it as an industry, but rather as a profession.

So we’re asking now that they consider giving back to that profession.

Our Broadcasters Foundation of America is the only instrument, the only vehicle for reaching out to those broadcasters who were not as fortunate, those who have fallen victim to life’s vicissitudes, through no fault of their own.

We’re there for them and their devastated families as life turns sad and difficult, when unforeseen disaster or medical emergencies strike without warning.

We thus exist only for the inhabitants of that profession in which our potential contributors labored — and many distinguished — for so long and which provided a stage, a forum for their own genius, talent, hard work and dedication.

And, as Dick Foreman suggests: it’s really all about taking care of our own.

We are broadcasters. And on that, and that alone, do we base our appeal to assist the hurting and almost forgotten in our own tribe.

We fully realize that none of this may resonate with those speculators and absentee owners who view the radio and television stations in their care and keeping only as investment “properties” rather than instruments of communication in a local community.

The ROI crowd just won’t get it. Some never learned the “art” of philanthropy. It’s like a shortstop who can’t go to his left. But we have to try to soften their “all-business” hardened hearts. Meanwhile, as I’ve said, we’re grateful beyond words to those who haven’t forgotten “where they came from.”

I started this piece with that gentle instruction of Gov. Mario Cuomo. Permit me to end with another timeless lesson from the great man which comes to us via Chris Cuomo of CNN, one of Mario’s sons and heirs: “My father explains his religion in a single word: love. Money creates opportunities, but all that matters is what you use it for. If you make life about your appetites, you will always be hungering for more.”

Individual and corporate contributions are fully deductible and may be made to the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, our profession’s officially certified and registered 501(c)(3) national public charity.

Some of our donors — of far less means than those who’ve denied us — annually contribute $50,000 or more. That princely sum would, of course, be wonderful. But we don’t expect that from the get-go. (We do realize that we are somewhat at fault and bear some responsibility for not keeping everyone posted on the foundation’s work and growth over the years). Thus whatever those who are new to our mission might think appropriate will be most gratefully received and put immediately to good use assisting fellow broadcasters, some of whom are in desperate shape.

If any of this makes sense to those previously “reluctant” to embrace the work of our national charity … we hope that, having been “enlightened,” they will now consider mailing a good, substantial “gesture” for the Guardian Fund to the Broadcasters Foundation of America to our president Jim Thompson in our New York office: 125 W. 55th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019. 212-373-8250.

Bill O’Shaughnessy, a long-time director of the Broadcasters Foundation of America and a member of its executive committee, is chairman of the Foundation’s Guardian Fund whose members include Phil Beuth, George Beasley, Erica Farber, Dick Ferguson, Louis Hillelson and Marty Pompadur. The fund has received over $7 million in contributions from individuals and foundations during the last decade.