Union Broadcasting System
|Type||Broadcast television network|
|Callsign meaning||Union Broadcasting System|
At the time of the film's setting, UBS is in fourth place among the four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, UBS) and is considered an industry joke when the network's parent company, UBS Systems, was bought by Arthur Jensen's CCA (the Communication Corporation of America). UBS' luck begins to change when network anchorman Howard Beale becomes a hit after suffering a breakdown live on the air, or as Diana Christensen puts it, "articulating the popular rage".
UBS has at least 67 affiliates including stations in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sandusky, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; as well as KGIM (Boise, Idaho), KTNS (Kansas City, Missouri) and WCGG in Atlanta, Georgia. (The Atlanta station's call letters are very similar to Ted Turner's WTCG - now WPCH-TV - and during one of Beale's on-air rants, the New York offices even field a call from a WCGG employee named Ted.)
UBS is not limited to its television network (it also has an Owned-and-Operated Stations Division) and controls UBS Radio Division, UBS Records Group, UBS Publishing Group, and the UBS Theater Chain.
- Howard Beale (Peter Finch): Anchorman for The UBS Evening News with Howard Beale, age 58. Once "the Grand Old Man of News", his ratings have slipped in recent years, his wife has died, and he has started drinking. He has known Max Schumacher for a long time, and it is Max who informs him of his firing two weeks hence. After Beale tells the national TV audience that he plans to kill himself on the air, senior VP Frank Hackett pulls him off UBS, only to put him back on when ratings skyrocket. Beale is clearly not well, but uses the medium to stop a deal between the West World Funding Corporation and CCA. In the end, the network executives plot his assassination, making it "the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings."
- Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway): Head of Programming for roughly six months. Christensen is creative, if soulless, and gains huge ratings by exploiting Beale and creating The Mao Tse-Tung Hour, a show highlighting the activities of a terrorist group. She is good at her job and becomes almost too excited at the prospect of a hit. Even in her relationship with Schumacher, Diana focuses on work and only pauses long enough to climax during sex. Eventually, she suggests killing Beale on live TV when the newsman's ratings slip again.
- Max Schumacher (William Holden): The President of the News Division at UBS. Max has known Howard Beale since their days at CBS in the early fifties. He often tells a comical anecdote about shooting a segment from the George Washington Bridge. He is told to resign by network president Edward Ruddy for allowing Howard to remain on the air announcing that "life is bullshit", although later reinstated. He is also often at odds with Frank Hackett who eventually fires him. Though he has been married to his wife Louise (Beatrice Straight) for 25 years, he becomes romantically involved with Diana Christensen but ends it when he realizes she is incapable of love. Schumacher is 51.
- Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall): Executive Senior Vice President, age 41. His ruthless style of management clashes with Schumacher, who has been in the industry since its inception. Hackett becomes Chairman of the Board after Edward Ruddy dies. Although initially against the idea of keeping Howard off the air, Hackett is persuaded to let Beale editorialize until his ratings go down. He, along with Diana, Nelson, Walter, and Herb plot to assassinate Beale.
- Edward George Ruddy (William Prince): Chairman of the Board, age 67. He demands Schumacher's resignation after he permits Beale to continue a rant about how life is bullshit, but later relents when he admits he's going to need backing from as many friends as possible when he goes up against Hackett. Ruddy later dies of a heart attack.
- Nelson Cheney (Wesley Addy): Network President, age 52. Uneasy about allowing Beale back on the air, and even more uneasy about killing him.
- Bob McDonough (Lane Smith): Vice President and interim head of the News Division. Mid-40s.
- Harry Hunter (Jordan Charney): Executive Producer for The UBS Evening News and The Howard Beale Show.
- Barbara Schlesinger (Conchata Ferrell): Late 30s, Head of the Story Department.
- Bill Herron (Darryl Hickman): Unidentified position, UBS West Coast Special Programs Department.
- George Bosch (John Carpenter): Age 39, VP Program Development, East Coast.
- Tommy Pellegrino (Michael Lipton): Assistant VP, Programming. 36.
- Jack Snowden (Stanley Grover): UBS correspondent based in Washington, who later replaces Beale as lead anchor.
- Edward Fletcher: A UBS correspondent who reports a story about the price of oil from Vienna.
- Walter Amundsen (Jerome Dempsey): General Counsel for UBS. He is one of five involved with the plot to kill Beale.
- Arthur Zangwill (Mitchell Jason): VP, Network Standards & Practices.
- Joe Donnelly (Ed Crowley): VP, Sales.
- Herb Thackeray (Pirie MacDonald): VP, Affiliate Relations. He is also involved in the plan to kill Beale.
- Milton Steinman (Gene Gross): VP, Public Relations News Division.
- Walter Gianini (Theodore Sorel): VP, Legal Affairs News Division.
- Emil Dubrovnik: VP, Owned Station News.
- Michael Sandies: General Manager, UBS News Radio.
- Richmond Kettering: VP, News Sales.
- The UBS Evening News: The network's national news show, anchored first by Howard Beale and later by Jack Snowden. Gained infamy after Beale announced his intention to kill himself and his famous "mad as hell" speech.
- The Network News Hour (referred to as The Howard Beale Show): The retooled news show featuring segments with "Sybil the Soothsayer", "Jim Webbing and his It's-the-Emmes-Truth-department", "Miss Mata Hari and her skeletons in the closet" as well as "Vox Populi". The show also opens with an editorial by Beale, who goes on ranting and raving until he passes out.
- The Mao Tse-Tung Hour: Hour-long drama focusing on the activities of the Ecumenical Liberation Army urban guerrillas. The show opens with authentic footage of the Ecumenicals committing a terrorist act, with the remainder of the show being the fictitious story behind the footage. (The terrorist group is obviously based on, but in the movie is specifically said not to be, the Symbionese Liberation Army.)
- The New Lawyers: One of three shows pitched to UBS by Universal which have the possibility of going into development. "Set in a large eastern law school, presumably Harvard, the running characters are a crusty but benign ex-Supreme Court Justice, presumably Oliver Wendell Holmes by way of Dr. Zorba. There is a beautiful girl graduate student and the local district attorney who is brilliant and sometimes cuts corners." (The real TV drama Paper Chase was presumably the inspiration for The New Lawyers.)
- The Amazon Squad: Another candidate for development from Universal. Running characters include a crusty but benign Police Lieutenant who is always getting heat from the commissioner; a hard-nosed, hard drinking detective who thinks women belong in the kitchen; and the brilliant and beautiful young girl cop who is fighting the feminist battle on the force. (This would seem to be a cross between Police Woman and Charlie's Angels, with a dash of Get Christie Love!)
- Untitled Investigative Reporter Show: The third show pitched to UBS by Universal, this one involving yet another crusty but benign character. At this point, Diana cuts Barbara off.
- The Dykes: Homosexual soap opera following the heart-rending saga of a woman hopelessly in love with her husband's mistress. Mentioned by Diana during sex.
These show titles can be seen on the network schedule board behind Diana.
- Celeb Canasta (Sundays, 9:00 PM)
- Grand Guignol (Sundays, 10:00 PM)
- Shirley, Pedro, and the Putz (Mondays, 9:00 PM)
- Holy Mackerel (Mondays, 10:00 PM)
- 2 Plus 2 (Tuesdays, 9:00 PM)
- Death Squad (Tuesdays, 10:00 PM)
- Celeb Mah-Jongg (Wednesdays, 9:00 PM)
- The Wilsons (Wednesdays, 10:00 PM)
- Bad Lands (Fridays, 10:00 PM)
- The Poco Poco Show (Saturdays, 8:30 PM)