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Arthur Taylor, the former president of CBS Inc. who championed the Family Viewing Hour on broadcast television and offloaded the New York Yankees to George Steinbrenner, has died. He was 80.
Taylor, who was just 36 when he was selected by legendary CBS tycoon William S. Paley in 1972 to head the media giant, died Dec. 3 at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., his family announced.
With profits soaring at the company, he was seen as the eventual successor to CBS chairman Paley, who had recruited Taylor from his executive vp post at International Paper Company. Paley, though, got rid of him in 1976, without explanation.
Taylor was a major proponent of the Family Viewing Hour, a philosophy meant to keep violent or “obscene” material off the air until 9 p.m. Norman Lear (All in the Family), Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H) and Danny Arnold (Barney Miller) were among the producers who thought that smacked of censorship; they filed sued in federal court in 1975, and the practice was overturned on First Amendment grounds.
“The surgeon general’s report had come out [in 1972] and finally said what no one else had said to that date, that television was being harmful to many children, particularly disadvantaged urban children, and that they were watching television 50 percent more hours a day than kids in normal houses,” Taylor said in a 1992 interview. “I didn’t see how we could continue at CBS to make the hundreds of millions of dollars a year we were making without indicating our sensitivity to that.”
CBS had acquired 80 percent of the Yankees for $11.2 million in 1964; nine years later, it sold its stake in the slumping team to a group of investors led by Cleveland shipping magnate Steinbrenner for $8.7 million. In March, Forbes valued the Yankees at $3.2 billion.
In June 1982, Taylor helped launch the Entertainment Channel, a pay-cable outlet that featured Broadway shows, BBC imports and other highbrow programming. With just 500,000 subscribers, it lasted less than a year but paved the way for the Arts & Entertainment Network.
“It was like putting on a beautiful play every night to a theater with too few seats,” he told The New York Times in 1983.
In 1985, Fordham University named the New Jersey native the dean of its graduate school of business administration and dean of its business faculty. After seven years there, Taylor served as president of Muhlenberg College in Allentown for a decade through 2002.
Survivors include his wife Kathryn, daughters Martha, Anne and Sarah and grandchildren David, Zoe, John and Brody and his sister Marilyn.
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