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- For the Dutch statistical office CBS, see Statistics Netherlands.
The Columbia Broadcasting System, or CBS, is a major radio and television network in the United States. CBS was one of the three commercial television networks that dominated broadcasting in the United States before the rise of cable television. In the days of radio, it grew to acquire one of its original founders, Columbia Records, which it sold many years later. Viacom, itself founded by CBS, owns the network today.
The network was the second out of three major networks to transition to color; most of the networks did so in the fall of 1965.
What became CBS was founded as the "Columbia Broadcasting System" in 1927 as a joint venture by Columbia Records and New York City talent agent Arthur Judson. It originally went on the air on September 18, 1927 as The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System with 47 radio stations.
In November of 1928, Columbia paid $390,000 to A.H. Grebe's Atlantic Broadcasting Company for what would become its New York flagship station, WABC, which moved to a clear channel frequency, 860 kHz, on November 8. WABC would finally become WCBS on November 3, 1946 and move to its present location at 880 kHz. (The classic CBS owned-and-operated station lineup from the late 1930s through the 1980s consisted of WCBS New York, KNX Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, WTOP Washington, KMOX St. Louis, and WCCO Minneapolis.)
This radio network lost money in its first year, and on January 18 1929 Columbia Records sold out its interests in the radio network to a group of private investors for US$400,000, headed by William S. Paley, a Philadelphia cigar manufacturer. The radio network was renamed The Columbia Broadcasting System. For the next nine years Columbia Records and CBS were independent unrelated companies.
This third radio network soon had more affiliates than either of the NBC networks, though the signals were weaker than NBC Red. (Ironically, the radio network now called "NBC" is owned by Westwood One, the operations of which are conducted under a management contract by Viacom. Although Viacom now owns many of the original NBC Red Network radio stations, the current "NBC Radio" is not related to the original NBC radio networks.)
Meanwhile, the core CBS Radio Network exists to this day, primarily providing national news to stations such as flagship WCBS, WBBM and KNX, as well as features such as "The Osgood File" and "Dan Rather Reporting."
Founder Paley saw an opportunity to win audiences through news programming, and spent substantial amounts of money to achieve dominance in that area. He hired Edward R. Murrow as "Director of Talks" as part of this effort. Together with William L. Shirer, Murrow practically invented broadcast journalism as we know it today.
Expansion and businesses
CBS first broadcast television in 1939, with 1 hour of programing per day in New York City. CBS made the first color broadcasts in 1941, but using technology incompatible with existing black-and-white television. This technology was rejected by the FCC a few years later in favor of a competing color television standard developed by RCA. Television would remain a minor part of CBS until after World War II.
Under the leadership of Paley and Frank Stanton, CBS was known for its strong, distinctive standards of branding and graphic design. Many of the hallmarks of this design live on today, such as CBS Television's unblinking eye logo (designed by William Golden and introduced in 1951), while others have gone by the wayside. (For example, in the Paley/Stanton era, it would never have been acceptable to use the CBS television eye in association with a CBS radio station or service, whereas today their eye logo is used for everything.) One well-known example of CBS's graphic-design particularity: on all official CBS letterhead, a tiny dot (at most a point in diameter) was pre-printed to indicate to a secretary where the typewriter carriage should be positioned for the salutation of a letter. (Elements of the CBS eye logo later inspired the logo for Lew Grade's British television company, ATV.)
From the 1940s until the 1970s, CBS was considered the most prestigious of the three major television networks and as a result was known as the Tiffany network. Much of the success for this is attributable to the hard-charging CBS network president, James T. Aubrey, Jr., who served from 1959 to 1965. CBS's dominance was broken in the 1970s by ABC, although CBS retook the top ratings spot from 1979 to 1984 and again during periods in the early 1990s and 2000s.
In 1965 CBS aquired Fender Guitars from Leo Fender, who felt that his health was taking a turn for the worse and decided to sell the company. Between 1965 and 1985 the quality of Fender guitars and amplifiers declined singnificantly. This prompted Fender fans to band together in 1985 and purchase Fender back from CBS and create FMIC, the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation.
In 1988, CBS sold the CBS Records Group (including the venerable Columbia label) to Sony, which renamed the group Sony Music Entertainment in 1991. The company's corporate name had already been shortened to "CBS Inc." in 1974.
By the early 1990s, profits had fallen as a result of competition from cable companies, video rentals, and the high cost of programming.
In 1995 Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired CBS for $5.4 billion. An industrial giant for much of the 20th century, Westinghouse sought to transform itself into a major media company with its purchase of CBS. It continued its expansion in 1997 with the $4.9-billion purchase of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, one of the largest owners of radio stations in the United States (second only to Clear Channel Communications). Also that year Westinghouse acquired two television channels, The Nashville Network (TNN) and Country Music Television (CMT).
In late 1997 Westinghouse changed its name to CBS Corporation and began to sell all of its non-entertainment assets. The new company moved its corporate headquarters from Pittsburgh to New York City. In 1998 CBS added to its broadcasting empire by paying about $2.6 billion to acquire American Radio Systems Corporation, a company that owned more than 90 radio stations. A year later CBS paid $2.5 billion to acquire King World Productions, a television syndication company whose programs include The Oprah Winfrey Show and Wheel of Fortune. By 1999 CBS Corporation had shed the last of the industrial businesses of the old Westinghouse.
In 1999, entertainment conglomerate Viacom, once part of the CBS television network, announced its intention to acquire CBS Corporation in a deal valued at $37 billion. The merger was completed in 2000 and made the combined firm the second largest entertainment company in the world.
It was estimated in 2003 that CBS is viewable by 96.98% of all American households, reaching 103,421,270 houses in the United States. CBS has 204 VHF and UHF owned-and-operated or affiliate stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions.
On June 14, 2005 Viacom announced it would split itself into two companies. CBS will become the focus of one company, which would retain the broadcasting units, TV production operations, Viacom Outdoor advertising, Showtime, Simon & Schuster and Paramount Parks. Moonves would head the new company, which will be known as CBS Corporation. Another company, which would retain the Viacom name, would be focused on Paramount Pictures and include MTV Networks, BET, Home Entertainment and Famous Music.
In 2004 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposed a record $550,000 fine on CBS for its broadcast of a Super Bowl halftime show in which singer Janet Jackson's breast was briefly exposed. It was the largest fine ever for a violation of federal decency laws. Following the incident CBS apologized to its viewers and denied foreknowledge of the event, which was broadcast live.
CBS suffered another embarrassment on September 8 of the same year, when the network aired a controversial episode of its popular newsmagazine, 60 Minutes, which questioned U.S. President George W. Bush's service in the National Guard. Later, it was revealed that the documents that CBS used were forged. In January of 2005, CBS fired four people because of their connection to the scandal. CBS Evening News anchor and 60 Minutes reporter Dan Rather resigned prior to this announcement, though he claimed that the decision was made before the report.
The CBS Eye
CBS unveiled its eye logo on October 17, 1951. The eye was designed by William Golden based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign as well as a Shaker drawing. It was first drawn by graphic artist Kurt Weiss, it made its broadcasting debut on October 20, 1951. CBS President Frank Stanton insisted on keeping the eye logo and using it as much as possible. The CBS eye is now an American icon. While the symbol's settings have changed, the eye itself has not been redesigned in its 50 year history.
- List of programs broadcast by CBS
- List of United States television networks
- List of CBS affiliates
- List of assets owned by Viacom
- List of CBS slogans
- CBS Evening News
- Category:CBS Sports
- CBS website
- History of the CBS Eye
- Background on CBS
- Columbia Broadcasting System page on museum.tv
- Screen captures of CBS logos past and present, as well as footage of vintage promosaf:CBS
- The Internet takes center stage at CBS - San Jose Mercury News
- ABC Gains, but CBS Still Controls Friday - Zap2it.com
- CBS viewers get peek into Valley politics - Monitor
- Amp'd Mobile nets content from ABC, NBC, CBS - Mobile Tracker
- CBS: In the Money - Broadcasting & Cable (subscription)
- Viacom-CBS heralds demerger mania - Business Online
- Maritime students appear on CBS Morning Show - Maritime College Athletics
- Google makes bid to be a media mogul and PC doctor - Register
- Backstage at the Google press conference - engadget
- Google to distribute CBS content - MarketWatch
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