Broadcasting Pioneer, Frank Stanton, Dies at 98

Dr. Frank Stanton, former president of CBS, died at his home in Boston on Dec. 24. Stanton was a central figure in the growth and development of U.S. television. His career at CBS spanned about 50 years.

Stanton is possibly best remembered for his battles involving First Amendment issues and for the support he gave to CBS journalists. This came to the forefront in 1971 when he was threatened with imprisonment in connection with a special investigative report, "The Selling of the Pentagon." The program was critical of the expenditure of $30 million in taxpayer dollars on a DOD campaign to improve its image. The House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee demanded outtakes from the program, with Stanton refusing, saying that the order amounted to an infringement of freedom of the press as provided by the First Amendment. The committee voted to cite Stanton for contempt, but this was rejected by House members in a 226 to 181 vote. Later, Stanton received a Peabody award citing him for his defense of broadcast journalism.

Following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Stanton kept CBS News on the air for four straight days and ordered that no commercials be run during the news coverage.

Stanton began his career with CBS in 1935, initially hired to work in the network's two-person research department. Three years later, Stanton had become director of research, heading up a department that had grown to 100 persons. In 1945 he was named vice president and general manager of the network and became president the following year. He remained in that capacity until his retirement in 1973. He served on the CBS board of directors until 1978 and continued as a consultant to the organization until 1987.