Former CBS Executive Stanton Dead at 98

Dec 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Dr. Frank Stanton, the legendary TV executive who shepherded the development of CBS’s enduring eye logo and was a corporate and journalistic backbone in the medium’s formative years, died Dec. 24 at home in Boston. He was 98.

During his 35 years with CBS, 25 of them as president, Dr. Stanton helped build what founder William S. Paley envisioned. His contributions ranged from early audience research and standards for programming to presidential debates and unflagging defense of TV news’ First Amendment rights.

The latter role earned him a Peabody Award for refusing to give outtakes to Congress from “CBS Reports: The Selling of the Pentagon,” a 1971 documentary about how support for the Vietnam War had been drummed up. He already had won a Peabody for his leadership on the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960.

“Like the CBS eye logo that he unveiled in 1951, Frank Stanton was an American icon, recognized and respected around the world,” CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves said in a statement.

Don Hewitt, who created “60 Minutes” and produced the Nixon-Kennedy debates, said, “If broadcasting had a patron saint, it would be Frank Stanton. If CBS is the Tiffany Network, Frank Stanton deserves the lion’s share of the credit.”

“He encouraged aggressive, independent reporting, backed it, fought for it, and stood strongly behind his news division and its reporters-especially when the heat was on and controversy swirled,” former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather said in a statement Tuesday. “This was particularly true in the latter part of his tenure at CBS. In so doing, Frank Stanton became a prime example of the fact that great journalism begins with owners and operators who have guts and a deep commitment to public service.”

One of Dr. Stanton’s moments in the spotlight resulted from the late ’50s quiz show scandal and measures he instituted to convince politicians and the federal government broadcasting could and should police itself.

He allowed CBS News to broadcast commercial-free for four straight days after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, a move some said helped to hold the nation together.

Dr. Stanton earned a Ph.D. in psychology and soon after joined the CBS research department in 1935. During World War II, he consulted for the Office of War Information, the Secretary of War and the Department of the Navy, all while serving as CBS VP and general executive. In 1946, when Mr. Paley was elected CBS chairman, Dr. Stanton was named president and CEO, a position he held until being named vice chairman in 1971. He left CBS in 1973 when he reached the then-mandatory retirement age of 65.

(Editor: Liff)