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Robert (Bob) Ross, Longtime Senior CBS Engineer, Has Died

CBS Bob Ross
(Image credit: CBS)

NEW YORK—One of the most highly regarded broadcast engineers of the last thirty years, Robert (Bob) Ross died on Sunday, June 19th, CBS has announced.  

Ross, who served as senior vice president, East Coast Operations, CBS between 1998 and his 2017 retirement, received many industry honors including induction into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) for his 45 plus years of work in broadcast engineering. 

“The CBS family was saddened to learn of the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend Robert Ross," CBS said in a statement. "Over his illustrious career, his incredible skill and accomplishments kept the Network at the forefront of technology and a leader in the broadcast business. Simply put, Bob was a brilliant engineer who will be dearly missed. We send our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

After graduating from Southern Maine Technical College, Bob joined RCA as a service technician, installing  television cameras, telecines and television systems around the globe. During one RCA business trip to South Africa, he met Elizabeth (Lis) Scavolo,  who became his wife of over 44 years.

Ross worked for 45 plus years in all areas of broadcast engineering. In 1977, he joined  Westinghouse Broadcasting as an engineer at WBZ-TV and continued with Westinghouse for 19 years working at WJZ-TV and KYW-TV.  Before the CBS/Westinghouse merger, Ross was the vice president of engineering for Group W Television Stations and after the merger, was the vice president, operations and engineering, CBS Television Stations.

During his career CBS, Ross oversaw tech teams working on a number of innovative projects. 

Those included the conversion of the CBS Television Network Broadcast Origination Center (BOC) to HD and then the construction of the Media Distribution Center (MDC)  that provided HD distribution for the CBS and CW Networks, as well as Video-On-Demand (VOD);  the rebuild of the network’s satellite distribution system; the creation of the store and forward ,“Pitch Blue” systems for domestic and international syndication distribution; the conversion from videotape to file-based digital distribution for both domestic and international syndication; the restoration of the Ed Sullivan Theater for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and the design and construction  of three key production areas for CBS Sports, the “CBS Evening News,” and “CBS This Morning.”

In October of 2009, Ross was elected into the class of the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, Ross reminded everyone in senior management to “hug their Chief Engineer” for all the hard work and long hours they spend keeping the stations on the air. 

Ross is the past chair of the Toolkit working group of the Media Security and Reliability Council (MSRC) under the  Federal Communication Commission Advisory Committee.  He was also a Fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE).  In 2013, Ross was appointed president of the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA).  

In 2018, Ross received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). He contributed to the standards process for the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), and various SMPTE engineering committees.

Ross had an Advanced Amateur Radio License and was a contributing author to a national magazine on consumer electronics.  He was also a licensed private pilot and glider pilot. He volunteered his time and talents at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) annual flying, AirVenture, in Oshkosh Wisconsin as a photo and video editor. In his retirement, Ross enjoyed working on his amateur radio “ham shack”. He was on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Model Pilots Society (AMPS) and enjoyed building / flying radio controlled model airplanes at his home in Cave Creek, AZ, as well as traveling around the country with his wife, Liz.

Ross is survived by his wife Elizabeth (Liz), daughter-Oliva, son-Joseph, daughter-in-law-Janine Ross and sister Judith (Ross) Gordon, her husband Neil and their children, Katie Ferullo and Alison Gordon.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked people to please contribute to their local Humane Society in the name of Robert J. Ross. An east coast memorial service for Ross will be announced in the near future.

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.