Fred W. Friendly

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Fred W. Friendly
Fred friendly.jpg
Born Ferdinand Friendly Wachenheimer
(1915-10-30)October 30, 1915
New York City
Died March 3, 1998(1998-03-03) (aged 82)
Riverdale, Bronx
Cause of death
Stroke
Resting place
Kensico Cemetery
Spouse(s) Dorothy Greene
Ruth Weiss Mark (m. 1968)
Children David T. Friendly
Andy Friendly
Lisa Friendly

Fred W. Friendly (October 30, 1915 – March 3, 1998) was a president of CBS News and the creator, along with Edward R. Murrow, of the documentary television program See It Now. He originated the concept of public-access television cable TV channels.

Early career[edit]

Friendly was born Ferdinand Friendly Wachenheimer in New York City. A graduate of Nichols Business College, Friendly entered radio broadcasting in 1937 at WEAN in Providence, Rhode Island.[1] By the 1940s he was an experienced radio producer. It was in this role that Friendly (who had changed his name during his Providence days) first worked with Murrow on the Columbia Records historical albums, I Can Hear It Now.

The first entry in the series, released on Thanksgiving Day 1948, covered the crisis and war years 1933–1945. It was a ground-breaker in that it used clips of radio news coverage and speeches of the major events from that twelve-year time span. Friendly created the concept after noticing the new use of audiotape in regular radio news coverage, as opposed to wire or disc recordings that were an industry standard. Nonetheless, Friendly periodically recreated the recordings of news events when such recordings didn't exist or were considered too chaotic to use on an album [1]. CBS correspondent David Schoenbrun, in his memoir On and Off the Air, said he once was forced by Friendly to ask Charles de Gaulle if he would recreate the speech he gave upon his return to Paris (de Gaulle refused). The recreations never were identified as such, and trying to separate the real from the recreated continues to be problematic for radio historians.

Although Murrow was an established CBS name and Columbia Records was then owned by CBS, Friendly's next full-time work came as a news producer at NBC. It was there that Friendly came up with the idea for the news-oriented quiz show Who Said That?, first hosted by NBC newsman Robert Trout, then Walter Kiernan, and John Charles Daly. The program, which Friendly edited, ran irregularly on NBC and then ABC between 1948 and 1955.[2]

Friendly later wrote, directed, and produced the NBC Radio series The Quick and the Dead during the Summer of 1950. It was about the development of the atomic bomb. It featured Trout, Bob Hope, and New York Times writer Bill Laurence, who had won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Manhattan Project).

CBS years[edit]

After the success of The Quick and the Dead, Friendly was recruited to work full-time for CBS by news executive Sig Mickelson. That fall, Murrow and Friendly collaborated to produce a CBS Radio documentary series inspired by their record albums—a weekly show called Hear It Now that was hosted by Murrow. The show moved to television as See It Now on Sunday, November 18, 1951.

Murrow and Friendly broadcast a revealing See It Now documentary analysis on Senator Joseph McCarthy (airing March 9, 1954) that has been credited with changing the public view of McCarthy, and being a key event leading to McCarthy's fall from power. It was an extension of the duo's continuing probe of the conflict between McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade and individual rights.

Murrow and Friendly had produced a notable See It Now episode on the topic the previous fall, when the show probed the case of Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Milo Radulovich, who had lost his security clearance because of the supposed leftist leanings of his sister and father—evidence the Air Force kept sealed. Five weeks later, Radulovich was reinstated by the secretary of the Air Force.

After See It Now ended in the Summer of 1958, Murrow and Friendly worked together on its successor, CBS Reports, although Friendly alone was executive producer and Murrow no more than an occasional reporter and narrator. Their most famous CBS Reports installment—the probe of migrant farm workers Harvest of Shame—aired in November 1960 and still is considered one of television's finest single programs.

After Murrow's departure from the television network in 1961, Friendly continued to oversee several notable CBS Reports documentaries including Who Speaks for Birmingham?, Birth Control and the Law, and The Business of Heroin.

Under CBS president James T. Aubrey, Jr. the pressures on CBS News operations increased. Aubrey constantly fought with Friendly. Friendly felt Aubrey was insufficiently concerned with public affairs and in his memoir, Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control, recounts one budget meeting at CBS when Aubrey talked at length of how much money the news was costing the company, a sea of red ink that could be stopped by replacing news with more entertainment programs. CBS founder and board chairman William S. Paley supported the news, however, and protected Friendly's division from Aubrey's proposed budget cuts.

In 1962, Aubrey ordered that there would be fewer specials, both entertainment and news, because he felt interruptions to the schedule alienated viewers by disrupting their routine viewing, sending them to the competition. Friendly resented this move. To Friendly's relief, in 1965 Aubrey was fired.

CBS resignation[edit]

In 1966, Friendly resigned from CBS when the television network ran a scheduled episode of The Lucy Show instead of broadcasting live coverage of the first United States Senate hearings questioning American involvement in Vietnam.[3] Onetime CBS News president Dick Salant, the legendary executive who preceded and later succeeded Friendly in the role, wrote in his memoirs that Friendly's problem was compounded by the fact he could not make such a request directly to the top CBS management (William S. Paley and Frank Stanton), as previous CBS News presidents had. In this case, Friendly had to go through a new executive level, through CBS Broadcast Group president Jack Schneider.

Later career[edit]

After he left CBS, Friendly worked at the Ford Foundation and also created the Media and Society Friendly Seminars, which were renamed the Fred Friendly Seminars after his death. According to Ralph Engelman, in Origins of Public Access Cable Television, 1966–1972, it was during this time that Public-access television cable TV channels in New York was conceived by Fred Friendly. It occurred during 1968 when he was assigned chairman of Mayor John Lindsay's Advisory Task Force on CATV and Telecommunications, and he wrote a report recommending that cable companies set aside two channels that the public could lease for a minor fee.

Later, he held the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Broadcast Journalism post at Columbia University. He then played a major role in establishing PBS. The broadcast newsroom at Columbia University's School of Journalism is named for Friendly, as is a professorship at the school.

He was the author of several books, including The Good Guys, The Bad Guys, And The First Amendment (an account of a number of First Amendment court cases and particularly of the "Fairness doctrine"), Minnesota Rag (A history of Near v. Minnesota), The Constitution: That Delicate Balance, The Present-Minded Professor, and Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control (about his sixteen years at CBS).

In 1988, Friendly produced and hosted a ten-part series on PBS, Ethics in America, on which a panel of leading thinkers debated and discussed modern ethical issues.

In 1990, Friendly received a George Polk Award honoring his career.

In 1994, Friendly was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

Death[edit]

The headstone of Fred Friendly

Friendly died on March 3, 1998 of a stroke, at his home in Riverdale, Bronx.[4][5] He is interred in the Sharon Gardens Division of Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY.

Legacy[edit]

In 2005, actor George Clooney portrayed Friendly in the film Good Night, and Good Luck. The film depicts the See it Now broadcasts that confronted Senator McCarthy.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ New York Times obituary dated March 5, 1998. Retrieved January 18, 2013
  2. ^ Who Said That? in Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, A Complete Directory to Prime Time Cable and Network TV Shows, 1946 - Present, p. 978. New York: Random House Publishing, 2003. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  3. ^ Gould, Jack (February 16, 1966). "Friendly Quits C.B.S. News Post In Dispute Over Vietnam Hearing". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-18. "Fred W. Friendly resigned yesterday as president of the Columbia Broadcasting System News Division in protest against working under a new superior who canceled live coverage of last Thursday's hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." 
  4. ^ Dempsey, John (March 5, 1998). "TV news giant Friendly dies: Legacy of integrity and highest standards". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 2008-07-18. "Fred Friendly, who put his stamp on a generation of news producers and correspondents as a hands-on executive during the glory days of CBS News in the 1950s and '60s under Edward R. Murrow, died at his home Tuesday after a series of strokes, CBS said Wednesday. He was 82." 
  5. ^ Pace, Eric (March 5, 1998). "Fred W. Friendly, CBS Executive and Pioneer in TV News Coverage, Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-18. "Fred W. Friendly, the former CBS News executive who was a towering figure in the evolution of news coverage on television, died Tuesday at his home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. He was 82." 

External links[edit]