Talk-Radio Pioneer Ben Hoberman Dies at 92
Ben Hoberman, the longtime ABC Radio executive who in 1960 developed the first all-talk radio station in the country at KABC-AM in Los Angeles, died Saturday in a West Los Angeles retirement facility. He was 92.
One of Hoberman's two sons is Mandeville Films founder David Hoberman, the Oscar-nominated producer of such films as The Fighter and Muppets Most Wanted, who also executive produced the television show Monk. He told The Hollywood Reporter that his father died of complications from cancer.
Hoberman's other son, Tom Hoberman, is a partner at the entertainment law firm Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush & Kaller.
With Ben Hoberman arrived as GM of KABC, the station switched from mostly middle-of-the-road (MOR) music to all-talk in September 1960. (Right around that time, KMOX-AM in St. Louis also was converting to all-talk.)
“We feel our programming has filled a void on the local radio scene,” Hoberman, who also delivered hard-hitting editorials, told Billboard in 1965.
Under his watch, the “Conversation Station” hired such popular talk-show hosts as Michael Jackson, Bill Balance, Pamela Mason (wife of actor James Mason), Ray Briem and Ken Minyard; in 1974, it became the flagship radio outlet of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hoberman left KABC in 1979 to serve as president of ABC Radio in New York, where he oversaw six satellite radio networks (with 2,000 affiliates), six AM stations, six FM stations and such syndicated programs as Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.
He quit ABC in January 1986, a few months after the $19 billion merger of Capital Cities Communications and ABC was announced. Hoberman then teamed with ex-ABC president Elton Rule and other investors in a failed attempt to raise funds for a takeover of the radio division. He retired and returned to Los Angeles.
A native of Chisholm, Minn., Hoberman, the youngest of five children, started his career at WMFG-AM in Hibbing, Minn., as an announcer and salesman for the 200-watt radio station. After being assigned to the Armed Forces Network during World War II, he ran the French stations for AFN before returning stateside in 1946 for a stint at WELI-AM in New Haven, Conn.
In 1950, he moved to the ABC-owned WXYZ-TV in Detroit as an account executive, then became GM at WABC-AM in New York in 1958 before relocating to Los Angeles to head KABC.
Hoberman was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 2003. At the time, Disney’s Robert Iger called Hoberman “quite a pioneer, helping to create the bedrock of today’s radio industry. Today our entire radio group thrives because of Ben, who blazed a trail for modern-day talk radio.”
In addition to his sons, survivors include his daughter, Joan; Tom's wife of 35 years, Ellen; and grandchildren Eric, Sarah, Chloe, Hannah and Charlie.
Jacklyn, his wife of 65 years, died in April 2013.