Frank Stanton Shaped CBS News

By Brian 

As the president of CBS, Frank Stanton “focused intently on the powerful news division,” his NYT obituary notes. “He created an executive review board to keep news policy and editorializing separate. He combined the news and public-affairs departments. He increased the news department’s budget and eventually extended the 15-minute nightly news to 30 minutes. He created the weekly investigative and news-documentary ‘CBS Reports.'”


  In 1971 Dr. Stanton was threatened with jail over his defense of his news division. CBS had broadcast an hourlong investigative report called ‘The Selling of the Pentagon,’ about a $30 million campaign by the Defense Department to improve its image, and the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee demanded that he hand over material that had been cut from the program. It wanted to see if CBS had demonstrated bias by deliberately not using material that would have been favorable to the Pentagon.

Handed a subpoena for the material at his office, Dr. Stanton refused to comply and was called before the committee. He argued that the committee was infringing on the rights of free speech and freedom of the press under the First Amendment.

‘If newsmen are told their notes, films and tapes will be subject to compulsory process so that the government can determine whether the news has been satisfactorily edited,’ he said, ‘the scope, nature, and vigor of their news reporting will be inevitably curtailed.’

The committee voted to cite him for contempt. But after an emotional floor debate, the full House rejected the committee’s citation.”