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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 December 2006, 08:27 GMT
Pioneer of American TV dies at 98
Frank Stanton in 1951
Mr Stanton became president of CBS in 1946, at the age of 38
Frank Stanton, ex-president of the CBS network and one of the pioneers of television in the US, has died aged 98.

He is credited with playing an integral role in building CBS from a small chain of radio stations to a communications empire, during his 25 years in charge.

In 1960, he created the first televised presidential debate, and allowed four days of commercial-free news coverage when John F Kennedy was assassinated.

Don Hewitt of CBS show 60 Minutes said he was broadcasting's "patron saint".

A communicator, the standard-bearer for our industry in any fight against limiting a free press or the flow of information
Leslie Moonves, current CBS president

And he deserved "the lion's share of the credit" for the success of CBS, Mr Hewitt added.

Mr Stanton once described his job as merely "keeping the company going".

But he persuaded CBS founder William S Paley - who had a background in radio - that television was the way forward.

"He thought it would hurt radio," Mr Stanton once said.

'Plotting future'

However, by signing programmes such as the comedy I Love Lucy, CBS emerged as a major player in the developing TV market.

Marg Helgenberger and William Petersen in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
The CSI shows - Las Vegas, Miami and New York - are major CBS hits
He described his excitement at being a pioneer by asking: "Who else had the opportunity to take a new medium - television - and plot its future?"

Mr Stanton "recognised the role that broadcast news would play in providing the American public with the essential news of what its governments were doing in its name", said former CBS news presenter Walter Cronkite.

And Leslie Moonves, the current president and CEO of CBS, described him as "a communicator, the standard-bearer for our industry in any fight against limiting a free press or the flow of information".

Mr Stanton enhanced his reputation as a defender of free speech when he refused to hand the US House of Representatives the out-takes from a controversial broadcast.

Lucille Ball in 1970
I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball, was among the early CBS successes
CBS Reports: The Selling of the Pentagon exposed the US military's propaganda campaign to build public support for the Vietnam War.

By withholding the material in 1971, Mr Stanton risked a charge of contempt and a jail sentence - although the House eventually backed down.

In 1999, Mr Stanton received a lifetime achievement award from the New York branch of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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