On Tuesday, January 28, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger was presented with the highest honor the Television Academy can bestow: induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, in a ceremony at the Saban Media Center at the Academy’s North Hollywood headquarters.
Iger received his award from Kerry Washington, who starred as Washington, D.C., crisis manager Olivia Pope on ABC’s top-rated 2012–18 ABC series Scandal. Washington celebrated Iger’s aversion to “playing it safe” and for driving a business at Disney that creates “possibilities for greatness.” She noted, “So many shows that seemed like risks in the beginning went on to dominate ratings and our cultural consciousness: Twin Peaks, NYPD Blue and, of course, Scandal. Bob helped to create a culture in television where we take risks, where we can be creative and innovative and step into our own greatness, because he stepped into his.”
“What a dream come true this 45-year journey has been for me,” Iger said, as he took the stage to accept the Academy’s honor. “Even as a little boy, I was passionate about television and movies and actually knew at a pretty young age that someday, someday I might be part of this incredibly captivating business. So it’s hard for me to believe that a 4-year-old kid who would sit in front of a black-and-white television watching hours of the Mickey Mouse Club, or a 19-year-old college student who took a writing and directing class, taught by a man named Rod Serling, would actually grow up to be me.”
In addition to Serling, Iger recognized that he joins four of his former leaders at ABC and Disney in the Hall of Fame—Roone Arledge, Thomas Murphy, Daniel Burke and Michael Eisner—as well as Walt Disney himself. “I’m here tonight because of the examples that they set, and the values that they embraced, and, of course, the lessons that they taught me, particularly the need to take great risks in a business that is creatively driven,” he said.
Iger emphasized his belief that in our rapidly changing world, those who create television have not just an opportunity, but a responsibility to serve viewers’ vital needs and make a positive impact on society. “The stories that we tell provide a much-needed escape, and they also help people relate to one another, gain a deeper understanding of different perspectives and create a sense of connection and, hopefully, a sense of optimism—which is something we at The Walt Disney Company strive for every day.
“We can achieve this by telling positive stories that promote strong values and inspiring role models, but also by being truth tellers and making sure the stories that we tell accurately reflect the world that we live in,” Iger said. He stressed the importance of increasing representation from women and other underrepresented groups both on-screen and behind-the-camera, stating, “I think this should be our number one priority.”
Celebrating members of the television industry whose accomplishments have made an indelible contribution to the medium, the Hall of Fame held its first ceremony in 1984, honoring such titans as Lucille Ball, Paddy Chayefsky and Norman Lear. With this week’s 25th ceremony, a total of only 168 people have been so honored—plus the groundbreaking series I Love Lucy. Inducted along with Iger this year were television executive and entrepreneur Geraldine Laybourne, writer-producer-director-animator-actor-singer Seth MacFarlane, classic sitcom director Jay Sandrich and actress Cicely Tyson.