TV PIONEER FRANK STANTON DIES AT 98

Dr. Frank Stanton, who became president of CBS in 1946 and ushered the network into the television age, died in his sleep in Boston Sunday at the age of 98. He remained president of the network for 26 years. A psychologist, Stanton had a keen sense of what audiences wanted and gave it to them. In the early days of television, he oversaw the launching of such hits as I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Gunsmoke, and The Twilight Zone. But at the same time he also contended with efforts by conservative groups to purge "pro-Communist" elements from the industry. He removed the ethnic sitcom The Goldbergs from the air after its producer/star refused to fire a leading actor who had been accused of communist affiliations, then imposed a "loyalty oath" on all CBS employees. "It [the loyalty oath] created a buffer zone between us and the people who were attacking us," he later said. (Stanton also later acknowledged that he was upset when he learned that more than a third of the audience who watched Sen. Joseph McCarthy's response to Edward R. Murrow's CBS documentary about him agreed with McCarthy that Murrow was pro-communist.) However, in 1971 he defied an order by the House of Representatives to turn over outtakes from a CBS Reports documentary, "The Selling of the Pentagon," as an unconstitutional intrusion into the editiorial processes of the network.

WONDERFUL LIFE STILL A WONDER AT CHRISTMAS

Hardly anybody was watching television on Christmas Eve, according to the Nielsen ratings. The only decent ratings were recorded on CBS in the 7:00 p.m. hour with the overrun of an NFL game and the beginning of 60 Minutes. But things went quickly downhill from there. Fox, for example, could only manage a 1.6 rating and a 4 share for the beginning of Spider-Man 2 at 7:00 p.m. and a 2.6/6 at 8:00 p.m. By comparison, the umpteenth showing of It's a Wonderful Life on NBC fared none too poorly. The movie registered a 2.3/6 at 8:00 p.m., a 2.8/6 at 9:00 p.m., and it even managed to win the 10:00 p.m. hour with 3.6/8, dismal ratings at any other time of the year, but not bad for Christmas Eve.

PRODUCT TO BEAM YOUR COMPUTER TO YOUR CELL PHONE

A software product from Silicon Valley-based Orb Networks allows consumers to watch anything on their home computer on just about any other device with a screen, including cell phones, PDAs, laptops and television sets, Business Week reported on its website today (Tuesday). The device, called the Orb, could have a significant negative impact on companies already providing video content to wireless telephone companies. Orb CEO Joseph Costello told the magazine, "With Orb, it's simple: If you want to watch an Internet video on your cell phone or TV, then watch it. ... Why should you have to pay for content when you get it for free on your home PC?" Moreover, Orb users will not be limited just to Internet content, Costello indicated. Gary Morgenthaler of Morgenthaler Ventures, which is backing Orb added, "The magic is in the architecture, which offers complete flexibility -- any file type, data format, media source, IP-based network, or screen size."

Brian B.