Longtime CBS Engineer Was 70 – The Hollywood Reporter
Robert J. Ross, who oversaw East Coast operations and engineering for the CBS Television Network for nearly two decades, died Sunday, the network announced. He was 70.
Ross served as senior vp of East Coast operations for CBS from October 1998 until his retirement in 2017, ending 45 years in the business.
At CBS, Ross was responsible for the conversion of the CBS Television Network Broadcast Origination Center to HD and then the construction of the Media Distribution Center, which provided HD distribution for the CBS and CW networks and VOD; the rebuild of the network’s satellite distribution system; the creation of the store and forward, “Pitch Blue” systems for domestic and international syndication distribution; the conversion from videotape to file-based digital distribution for domestic and international syndication; the restoration of the Ed Sullivan Theater for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert; and the design and construction of three key production areas for CBS Sports, the CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning.
In October 2009, Ross was elected into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, he reminded senior management to “hug their chief engineer” for all the hard work and long hours they spend keeping the stations on the air.
He received a lifetime achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2018.
“The CBS family was saddened to learn of the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend Robert Ross,” the network said in a statement. “Over his illustrious career, his incredible skill and accomplishments kept the network at the forefront of technology and a leader in the broadcast business. Simply put, Bob was a brilliant engineer.”
After graduating from Southern Maine Technical College, Ross joined RCA as a service technician, installing TV cameras, telecines and TV systems around the world. He came to Westinghouse Broadcasting as an engineer at WBZ-TV in 1977 and continued with that company for 19 years, also working at WJZ-TV and KYW-TV.
Before the $5.4 billion CBS/Westinghouse merger, which closed in late 1995, Ross was vp engineering for Group W Television Stations; after the merger, he served as vp operations and engineering for the CBS Television Stations.
Ross also was a past chair of the Media Security and Reliability Council under the FCC’s Advisory Committee, a Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers fellow and a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. In 2013, he was appointed president of the North American Broadcasters Association.
Ross had an advanced amateur radio license and was a contributing author to a national magazine on consumer electronics. He also was a licensed private and glider pilot who volunteered as a photo and video editor for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual AirVenture event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
In retirement, he enjoyed building and flying radio-controlled model airplanes at his home in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Survivors include his wife of more than 44 years, Liz; children Olivia and Joseph; daughter-in-law-Janine; and sister Judith, her husband, Neil, and their children, Katie and Alison.
The family did not want to reveal the cause of death. Contributions in his name can be made to the Humane Society.