Industry News TALKERS 2024

John Catsimatidis Named Recipient of 2024 TALKERS Freedom of Speech Award


Self-made billionaire businessman, broadcasting entrepreneur, radio talk show host and best-selling author John Catsimatidis (pictured above speaking at last year’s TALKERS 2023) has been selected by the TALKERS editorial board as the 2024 recipient of the highly prestigious Gene Burns Memorial Award for Freedom of Speech. The honor, also commonly referred to as the “TALKERS Freedom of Speech Award,” is presented each year to a talk media practitioner whose work sets an example for the exercise and preservation of the First Amendment. In addition to Catsimatidis’ founding and/or ownership of major enterprises in the fields of grocery chains and the energy industry, he is a long-running radio talk show host who began changing the course of the medium’s history by purchasing heritage radio station WABC, New York in 2019.  Since then, the Greek immigrant born on the island of Nistros in 1948 and who came to the United States with his parents when he was six months old, has made significant progress in repositioning and reinvigorating the legendary talk and music station to its role as a major cultural and political influencer in modern media. This has been accomplished by boldly bringing diverse, high-profile voices to the station’s talent lineup, focusing heavily on local news and public policy issues, eliminating paid weekend programming, adding a dash of music and pop culture to the mix, concentrating the station’s schedule on live shows in real time and investing in community-oriented events. Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Media Group has subsequently expanded the station’s national footprint by acquiring WLIR-FM, Long Island and launching its own syndication arm, Red Apple Audio Networks. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison, upon announcing the selection, stated, “John Catsimatidis is a true New York City legend and former mayoral candidate who has proven to be one of the most positive forces the radio industry has seen in decades. He embodies the spirit of what this award is all about. He joins a remarkable list of broadcasters from all ends of the political spectrum – left, right, middle, and apolitical – who’ve received this honor going back every year to the origins of TALKERS in the late 1980s.” The award will be presented at TALKERS 2024: Radio and Beyond at Hofstra University on Long Island Friday, June 7.