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October 26: The Broadcast Pioneer

Lawrence Bush
October 25, 2016
William S. Paley, who built the Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS) from a struggling radio network into the premier nationwide radio and TV consortium, acquiring tremendous political and cultural clout along the way, died at 89 on this date in 1990. His father was a successful cigar manufacturer, who in 1927 acquired a Philadelphia radio network in order to promote his product. Sales doubled within a year, and within the decade, his son had built the network to more than a hundred stations. Paley turned CBS News into a major media force in the 1930s and beyond. He elevated network programming to play a dominant role on all affiliated stations (which advertisers loved). He launched CBS television and its nationally loved entertainments, including Gunsmoke, Paley’s favorite, and I Love Lucy, The Ed Sullivan Show, MASH, and All In the Family. He purchased the New York Yankees in 1964 and sold them to George Steinbrenner in 1973. Paley’s company also revolutionized the music industry with the Columbia label’s introduction in 1948 of the long-playing record. “[A]s Carnegie was to steel, Ford to automobiles, Luce to publishing and Ruth to baseball.” --David West, New York Times

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.