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Fred W. Friendly

radio and television news producer

Fred W. Friendly

Ferdinand Friendly Wachenheimer was born in New York City, New York, on October 30, 1915. A graduate of Nichols Business College, he entered radio in the 1930's at a radio station in Providence, Rhode Island (which is where he changed his name). By the 1940's he was an experienced radio producer.

It was as a radio producer that Friendly first worked with Edward R. Murrow, on the Columbia Records historical albums series I Can Hear It Now. The first entry in the series, released on Thanksgiving Day 1948, covered the years 1933 to 1945, and featured actual clips of radio news coverage and speeches of the major events during that period.

Friendly's next full-time job was as news producer at NBC Radio. It was there that he came up with the idea for the news-oriented quiz show Who Said That?, hosted by NBC newsman Robert Trout. He also wrote, directed, and produced the summer 1950 NBC Radio series The Quick and the Dead, about the development of the atomic bomb.

After the success of The Quick and the Dead, Friendly was recruited to work for CBS Radio by news excecutive Sig Mickelson. There Friendly re-teamed with Murrow to produce a CBS Radio documentary series inspired by their record albums -- a weekly show called Hear It Now, hosted by Murrow. The show moved to television as See It Now on Sunday, November 18, 1951. On March 9, 1954, Murrow and Friendly broadcast a See It Now documentary analysis of Senator Joseph McCarthy which has been credited with changing the public view of McCarthy and being a key event in McCarthy's fall from power. A previous episode had probed the case of Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Milo Radulovich, who had lost his security clearance because of the supposed leftist leanings of his sister and father. Five weeks after that episode aired, Radulovich was reinstated by the Secretary of the Air Force. See It Now ended production in the summer of 1958.

From 1959 to 1964, Friendly was executive producer of CBS Reports. One of the most famous installments of CBS Reports was a probe of migrant workers -- "Harvest of Shame" -- which aired in November 1960. Other notable installments included "Who Speaks for Birmingham?," "Birth Control and the Law," "The Business of Heroin," and "The Population Explosion."

Friendly became president of CBS News in March 1964. He resigned abruptly on February 15, 1966, when the network chose to broadcast an "I Love Lucy" rerun while rival NBC News went live with a Senate hearing on Vietnam.

After leaving CBS, Friendly became the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Columbia University. He also served as the Ford Foundation's adviser on communications for fourteen years, created the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society (now called the Fred Friendly Seminars), and played a major role in establishing the PBS network.

Over the course of his career, Friendly was the recipient of 10 Peabody awards. He was also the author of numerous articles and five books, including The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and The First Amendment (an account of a number of First Amendment court cases) and Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control (an account of his sixteen years at CBS).

Fred W. Friendly died on March 3, 1998.

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This page was last updated on 06/28/2018.