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The general meeting of the Vienna Philharmonic voted on December 11, 2003 to honor the distinguished American television commentator Walter Cronkite with the Franz Schalk Medal in Gold, in view of his contributions to the New Year's Concert and the cultural image of our country.
Walter Cronkite was born in Missouri in 1916, and beginning in 1950 became extremely popular in the United States through his commentary and reporting for the broadcasting network CBS. Between 1962 and 1981 he moderated CBS' evening news broadcasts and became one of the most influential voices in the country - one survey naming him "Most Trusted Figure" nationally. In the mid 1980s, when the Austrian Broadcasting Co. (ORF) was attempting, together with the US public broadcaster WNET/Channel Thirteen, to establish the New Year's Concert in the American market, the issue of finding a suitable moderator was one of pivotal importance. Dr. Peter Radel, general secretary of the ORF at the time, was able, with the support of Dr. Peter Marboe, to engage Walter Cronkite, for whom this task soon took on personal importance. On January 1, 2004, Cronkite moderated the broadcast for the 20th time, ever concerned with presenting the special cultural significance of Vienna and the former Austrian empire.
The presentation of the Franz Schalk Medal in Gold took place on December 30, 2003 just prior to the last rehearsal for this year's New Year's Concert. Walter Cronkite joined the Philharmonic, Riccardo Muti, Professor Franz Mailer and David Horn, prior assistant to Peter Weinberg and now Music director of WNET/Channel Thirteen, on the stage of the Golden Concert Hall to receive his award.