Robert J. Ross, Television Engineering Veteran, Dies At 70
On June 19th, 2022, the television industry saw the passing of an engineering icon, Robert J. Ross, who had been senior vice president, East Coast operations, CBS Broadcasting since October 1998 until his retirement in 2017, died on June 19 at 70. When he retired, he oversaw all East Coast operations and engineering for the CBS Television Network.
After graduating from Southern Maine Technical College, Ross 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 a British lady, Elizabeth Scavolo, who became his wife of more than 44 years.
He worked for 45 plus years in all areas of broadcast engineering. In 1977, he joined Westinghouse Broadcasting as an engineer at WBZ-TV Boston and continued with Westinghouse for 19 years working at WJZ Baltimore and KYW Philadelphia.
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.
At CBS, Ross was responsible for 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.
The network said in a statement: “The CBS family was saddened to learn of the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend Robert Ross. 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.”
In October of 2009, Ross was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, he 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.
He is the past chair of the Toolkit working group of the Media Security and Reliability Council under the FCC Advisory Committee. He was also a fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.
In 2013, Ross was appointed president of the North American Broadcasters Association. In 2018, he received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award. He also contributed to the standards process for the Advanced Television Systems Committee 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 annual flying, AirVenture, in Oshkosh Wis., 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 of the Arizona Model Pilots Society and enjoyed building and flying radio controlled model airplanes at his home in Cave Creek, Ariz.
He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, 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, his family requests contributions to your local Humane Society in the name of Robert J. Ross. An East Coast memorial service for him will be announced in the near future.