TV academy to laud Frank with rare nod

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Rich Frank, a veteran entertainment industry executive and former president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, has been tapped to receive the Syd Cassyd Founders Award from ATAS during Saturday's 2007 Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

Frank becomes only the eighth recipient of the award, which is named in honor of ATAS' founder and was created to recognize "members who have made a significant positive impact on the academy through their efforts and service over many years of involvement."

"There is no one more deserving of this honor than Rich Frank," ATAS chairman and CEO Dick Askin said. "During his unprecedented three terms as television academy president, Rich helped expand the image of the academy beyond the Primetime Emmys through a variety of groundbreaking initiatives."

As president of ATAS, Frank spearheaded what the academy calls one of its "most ambitious" events ever: the Information Superhighway Summit in 1994, during which Vice President Al Gore discussed the expanding TV universe and new technologies like the Internet. ATAS considers it a "milestone event in bringing focus to the changing industry."

Also under Frank's leadership, ATAS established the academy's Campaign Against Substance Abuse, which helped to change the portrayal of drug use in TV programs, and the Archive of American Television, which falls under the aegis of the Television Academy Foundation.

"I have been lucky to work in this industry for over four decades and have been honored to have been able to lead the academy for part of that time," Frank said. "To be able to get up every morning and go to work doing what I love in a medium that entertains, educates, provides news and encourages debate is something very few people get to do, so to be recognized for that is something extra special."

Frank got his start in the industry in the 1960s at advertising agency BBDO in New York before moving to Los Angeles to become sales manager at KTLA-TV and later president of KCOP-TV and Chris-Craft Broadcasting.

From 1977-85, Frank was vp and then president of the Paramount Television Group and was one of the founders of USA Network. Under his leadership, Paramount scored with such series as "Cheers" and "Taxi."

In 1985, he became president of Walt Disney Studios, responsible for the production, marketing and distribution of its movies and TV shows. There, he oversaw such TV series as "Home Improvement" and "The Golden Girls" and launched Disney Channel.

A trio of top TV executives praised Frank on Tuesday.

"Rich Frank is one of those rare individuals whose many noteworthy accomplishments in both our business and the community at large are matched by equally admirable qualities as a human being," Fox Broadcasting president of entertainment Kevin Reilly said.

Said Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios: "Rich Frank is a true visionary and champion of popular television. He is responsible for some of the best shows in television history that continue to entertain audiences all around the world."

Added ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson: "I am thrilled that the academy has chosen to honor such an industry legend, a wonderful man and a great friend. He has been a visionary, a leader, a mentor and has defined excellence for our industry."

After his tenure at Disney, Frank devoted himself to Frank Family Vineyards, the Napa Valley-based wine producer that he established in the '90s. In 2003, he came out of semi-retirement to co-found Integrated Entertainment Partners, a company that linked studios, producers and consumer brands into entertainment properties, which merged a year later with talent agency the Firm, where Frank was appointed chairman of the board. He currently serves as a consultant to the Firm as well as vice chairman of the American Film Institute. He also he remains active in ATAS and its foundation, of which he is a member of the board of directors.
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