The long-time television executive was the principal architect, builder, manager and owner of WCVB Boston, putting the it on the air in 1972. It was lauded as America’s best television station. He was 89.
Bob Bennett, Founding GM Of WCVB, Dies
Robert M. Bennett, a legendary broadcaster and first general manager of WCVB Boston, died Tuesday night (Nov. 29) at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, CA. He was 89.
“Bob was beloved by all, with an infectious personality and unparalleled leadership ability,” said Bill Fine, WCVB president and general manager. “In launching WCVB in 1972, Bob’s vision was one of a truly local television station, a blueprint which has been dutifully followed for 45 years. He was a genuine broadcasting pioneer and legend, respected equally by his staff and competitors. His impact on local broadcasting, nationwide, is his legacy.”
Bennett ranked among the nation’s most accomplished broadcasters over a 50-year career that was capped by election to the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1984 joining such distinguished media notables as Diane Sawyer, Merv Griffin, and Edward R. Murrow.
Bennett began his broadcasting career in 1952 as a salesman at KTTV Los Angeles, and, from 1958 to 1966 he was VP-director of sales. Rising through Metromedia’s broadcast division, he served as VP-GM of WTTG Washington, and, from 1969 to 1971, the country’s largest and most successful independent station, WNEW New York.
In 1972, the FCC, for the first time in its history, awarded a television license to a new group of operators in Boston, Bennett, among a field of elite candidates, was selected to lead the group. He emerged as that station’s principal architect, builder, manager and owner. WCVB, from the start, was conceived as a model of what local television broadcasting could be in America. It produced more than 60 hours of locally produced programming at a time when most stations were content simply to run local news and occasional documentaries.
Among WCVB-TV’s award-winning original productions were: an ABC Network movie, Summer Solstice, set in a picturesque New England community starring Henry Fonda and Myrna Loy; a situation comedy entitled The Baxters developed for national syndication with legendary Hollywood television producer Norman Lear; another situation comedy entitled Park Street Under from which Paramount Television and the NBC Network reportedly developed its long-running hit Cheers; and more than 200 national and international award-winning documentaries, dramas, and magazine/talk shows.
Under Bennett’s leadership, WCVB received a Peabody Award as America’s finest television station and was recognized by The New York Times as “probably America’s best television station.”
The recipient himself of many awards recognizing his personal contributions to the field, Bennett, in 1985, was presented one of the broadcast industry’s highest honors, the President’s Award of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE). Therein, he was cited as “a distinguished, inspired, dedicated leader … willing to take a chance, a man who encourages his colleagues to experiment, to try new ideas, even to risk failure.”
For the past 31 years he lived in Newport Beach, Calif., with his wife, Marjie. He leaves a daughter, Kelly Bennett, and grandson, Brandon Bennett, of Santa Monica, Calif.; and son, Casey Bennett of Marina del Rey, Calif.
Maria Laing says:
November 30, 2016 at 6:22 pm
Is there anyone in Broadcast Management today who would even dare to attempt some of the projects that made Bennett a legend? Is there a broadcast group owner with the commitment to the communities it serves who would support such a manager/leader?
Pat Patton says:
December 1, 2016 at 11:58 am
Truly the Best of The Best. !
It was a unique pleasure to have known the man both personally & professionally!