Robert R. Pauley

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Robert Reinhold Pauley, who as president of ABC Radio in the 1960s turned around the fortunes of the failing network, died Saturday from heart failure. He was 85. At ABC, Pauley brought a Harvard Business School management model to a floundering division of ABC-Paramount and led it into number one position. After leaving ABC, Pauley served briefly as president of Mutual Broadcasting System, before founding or co-founding several visionary media enterprises and finally turning to university teaching.

Pauley was born in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1923 to Edward Matthew Pauley and Grace Amanda Smith. He attended the New Canaan public schools, then St. Luke&squo;s School for Boys. Entering Harvard College in 1942, his freshman year was cut short by World War II. A vision disorder kept him from his first military choice to be a Navy pilot, and Pauley joined the U.S. Merchant Marines, serving as one of the youngest line officers on Victory ships in each of the war&squo;s theaters from 1943 to 1945. In 1946, Pauley married the former Barbara Anne Cotton of Pound Ridge, N.Y., and, while starting a family, pursued a graduate degree at Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass. A summer job at a small radio station in Framingham, Mass., introduced Pauley to the industry, and he started his formal career in Manhattan as a network salesman at NBC. Pauley moved to ABC, where he quickly rose to sales manager. Noting his last-place network&squo;s musical-chairs managerial disorganization and demoralized personnel, he wrote a sharp memo in 1960 outlining his prescription for recovery to top brass at ABC. Guessing he&squo;d be fired for his nerve, Pauley was offered the president&squo;s job two weeks later.

Pauley immediately solidified a management structure, beefed up the news division, hired new talent such as Howard Cosell and Ted Kopell, targeted a younger audience with innovative short-format programming such as &dquo;Flair&dquo; with Dick Van Dyke, purchased broadcasting rights to the then-Cassius Clay&squo;s heavyweight boxing title bouts, which earned unprecedented ratings and profile for the network, steadily expanded ABC&squo;s family of affiliated stations and traveled the country championing the reach and competitive advertising advantages of network radio at a time when many in broadcasting felt its glory days were gone. Once mired in last place, ABC under Pauley soon emerged as the preeminent force in network radio, earning a nearly 50 percent market share by the mid-60s. Pauley was named Radio Man of the Year or runner-up by the industry&squo;s Gallagher Report each year between 1963 and 1967.

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In 1963, Pauley successfully challenged the radio ratings practices of the giant Neilsen Company before Congress. Testifying before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Pauley asserted that NRI was failing to measure huge &dquo;non-plug radio&dquo; (car and transistor) usage ‐ devaluing network radio at a time when the medium was exploding not shrinking as many alleged. &dquo;It is the considered judgment of the ABC Radio Network that radio listening was not pushed down by the emergence of television [as] reported by NRI or generally believed by advertisers who are compelled to justify their purchase of time on the basis of NRI,&dquo; Pauley testified. He also submitted reports from researchers documenting glaring discrepancies found in Nielsen&squo;s measuring standards for ABC&squo;s programs. As a result of the hearings, Neilsen was forced to quit offering NRI and left the radio ratings business altogether.

Pauley left ABC in 1967 and briefly served as president of Mutual Broadcasting Network before turning his attention to the development of a fourth, all-news television service to challenge the &dquo;Big Three.&dquo; In 1970, with the backing of Joseph Coors of the Colorado beer fortune, he founded Television News Inc. (TVN), a consortium of news feeds and sources including, among others, the BBC, to cover more stories around the world from more angles than the established media could or would cover. Pauley&squo;s goal was broader as well as more &dquo;fair and balanced&dquo; coverage. 45 stations were carrying TVN when Coors pulled financing in 1975. But the &dquo;fair and balanced&dquo; motto coined by Pauley was borrowed by TVN&squo;s executive VP Roger Ailes when, years later, he helped launch Fox News with Rupert Murdoch. The business model of TVN may have also been a precursor to CNN: TVN&squo;s technical director Reese Schoenfeld went on to help Ted Turner establish the Cable News Network.

Also in 1970, Pauley along with businessman Murray Woroner of Miami, Florida co-founded the National Black Network. Recognizing the lack of minority radio programming on a national level, they made use of off-hours network transmission line-time to unite the 117-black oriented radio stations around the country. NBN became a success but Pauley gave up his stock in the interest of 100 percent minority ownership.

In the mid-70s, Pauley changed careers to become a corporate finance officer at EF Hutton in Boston, where he brokered the $110 million sale of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram to Capital Cities Communications, at the time the largest such media transaction in history.

In the early 80s, he moved from the northeast to the Carolinas, where he was asked to teach at the University of South Carolina in Spartanburg. Pauley became a full-time professor, founded USCS&squo;s journalism school, taught journalism and business classes and introduced the university&squo;s first course on business ethics.

Pauley took up competitive horse-riding and fox-hunting later in life, and owned and maintained several horses at his small South Carolina farm up until 2004. He moved back to Connecticut in 2005.

Pauley was a member of the board of directors of National Association of Broadcasters, Community Redevelopment Foundation, Save the Children Federation, Radio-TV Guild; American Health Foundation. He was a member of the NYSE, NASD and CBOE, the St. Nicholas Society, City of New York; the Harvard Clubs of New York and Boston; Sons of the American Revolution; Myopia Hunt Club of Hamilton, Mass., and the Tryon Hounds of Tryon, North Carolina. He was awarded an Honorary ScD by Curry College, Milton, Mass., in 1966.

Pauley is survived by his wife, Barbara, three sons and one daughter, and several grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Saturday May 9 at Hoyt Funeral Home in New Canaan. A celebration of his life is planned for late June in Landrum.