Empire: William S. Paley and the Making of CBS

Lewis J. Paper, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-00591-7
Born 85 years ago in Chicago, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, William Paley first encountered broadcasting in its infancy while placing radio advertising for his father's cigar company. In 1928, at 26, he bought a controlling interest in what soon became the Columbia Broadcasting System, where he continues to serve as chairman and remains ""the single most important person in the history of broadcasting,'' writes the author. Balanced, well researched and highly readable, the biography provides a portrait of an American businessman and his leadership of an enterprise that has transformed national life. Never an innovator, Paley built CBS out of shrewd bargaining, heavy investment and good timing, notes Paper (John F. Kennedy, etc.). A charming, driven man of exquisite personal taste, he focused above all on programming, where quality was important but high ratings essential. Paper draws on documents and interviews (including a session with Paley) to examine this powerful figure: from his role over the decades in CBS's achievements and controversies, to his lavish personal life, insularity and extreme sensitivity to criticism in recent years. This deserves a high place among the essential books on TV. Photos not seen by PW. (August 31)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
Paperback - 978-0-312-02572-4
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