Other winners include the BBC's dramatic reconstruction "The Day that Lehman Died" and National Public Radio's Web site.
"To those who say all media content is the same, or presented from a single perspective, we offer this great range of material as a response," said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards, in a statement.
"Our selections demonstrate that great work available in 2009 varied widely and appealed to viewers and listeners with very different tastes, interests and concerns," he said.
An award ceremony for the 69th annual Peabody Awards will be held May 17 in New York. It will be hosted by ABC "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer, who will receive an award for "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains," a documentary shot in Appalachia.
Announcing the awards, Cully Clark, dean of UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said "Modern Family," which follows the ups and downs of an extended family, "reinvents the situation comedy."
Other entertainment programming recognized with a Peabody included "Glee," a musical dramedy about the members of a high school singing club; "In Treatment," HBO's therapy drama; and "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," a series about a female detective in Botswana based on the novels by Alexander McCall Smith.
Blurring the line between entertainment and news, CBS' Scottish-born late-night talk-show host Craig Ferguson garnered an award for an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who helped lead opposition to apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.
The global financial crisis was a common theme among some winners, including "The Day that Lehman Died," PBS' "Frontline: The Madoff Affair" and Oregon Public Broadcasting's "Hard Times."
NPR's Web site was heralded as a model for what a news site should be. The news organization's Kabul bureau chief, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, also got a nod for her extensive coverage of life inside Afghanistan.
Several local news organizations got laurels for their local reporting efforts. They included Houston's KHOU-TV, for its investigative series, "Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard," which led to the firing of three Texas Guard generals; reporting by Chicago's WFLD-TV on the sidewalk murder of honor student Derrion Albert; and "BART Shooting," a series of reports by KTVU-TV in Oakland, Calif., on a deadly train station confrontation.
Hong Kong-based Now-Broadband TV News Channel, which won a Peabody in 2008 for its coverage of the Sichuan earthquake in China, won again for "Sichuan Earthquake: One Year On," anniversary coverage that asked hard questions about construction standards that may have increased the quake's death toll.
Arts and culture were represented by two "Independent Lens" documentaries: "The Order of Myths," which examines race relations through the prism of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Ala., and "Between the Folds," a study of the art of origami and paper folding. Making mouths water was "Noodle Road," a survey of the Asian culinary staple by South Korea's KBS 1TV.
The University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has administered the Peabodys in Athens since the