As a media magnate
Walter Annenberg controlled important properties in the newspaper,
television, and magazine industries. Perhaps most significantly,
he was responsible for the creation of TV Guide, the largest
circulation weekly magazine in the world, a magazine central to
understanding television in America. He was also very active in
the arena of American politics, and served as United States Ambassador
to the Court of St. James. In his later life, Annenberg became renowned
for his substantial philanthropic activities, which included significant
donations to educational institutions and public television.
When his father
was imprisoned for tax evasion, Annenberg took over the family publishing
business. Triangle Publications, particularly The Daily Racing
Form, proved to be extremely profitable, and Annenberg looked
for ways to expand his company at precisely the time television
was beginning to emerge as America's communications medium of the
future. Inspired by a Philadelphia area television magazine called
TV Digest, Annenberg conceived the idea of publishing a national
television feature magazine, which he would then wrap around local
television listings. The idea came to fruition when Annenberg purchased
TV Digest, along with the similar publications TV Forecast
from Chicago, and TV Guide from New York. He combined their
operations to form TV Guide in 1953, and quickly expanded
the magazine by creating new regional editions and purchasing existing
television listings publications in other markets.
his aide, Merrill Panitt (who would go on to become TV Guide'
s editorial director), realized that in order achieve the circulation
necessary to make their publication a truly mass medium, they needed
to go beyond the fan magazine approach that had been typical of
most earlier television and radio periodicals. Because of this desire,
they created a magazine that was both a staunch booster of the American
system of television, yet at times also one of the most visible
critics of the medium's more egregious perceived shortcomings. TV
Guide' s editors often encouraged the magazine's readers to
support quality television programs struggling to gain an audience.
In fact, TV Guide' s greatest accomplishment under Annenberg
may have been the magazine's success in walking the fine line between
encouraging and prodding the medium to achieve its full potential
without becoming too far removed from the prevailing tastes of the
mass viewing public. As a consequence, TV Guide became extremely
popular and widely read, and very influential among those in the
television industry. A large number of distinguished authors wrote
articles for the magazine over the years, including such names as
Margaret Mead, Betty Friedan, John Updike, Gore Vidal, and Arthur
Schlesinger, Jr. Many of these writers were attracted by the lure
of reaching TV Guide' s huge audience; at its peak in the
late 1970s, TV Guide had a paid circulation of nearly 20
million copies per week.
supportive of conservative political causes throughout the years,
and his efforts on behalf of Republicans were rewarded with his
designation by President Richard Nixon as U. S. Ambassador to Great
Britain in 1969. The appointment led Annenberg to sell his newspapers
and television stations, but he retained TV Guide and remained
active in managing the publication throughout his five-year tenure
the election of his close friend, Ronald Reagan, as President in
1980 (he would endorse Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984 in
TV Guide, the only such political endorsement ever to appear
in the magazine), Annenberg announced a plan to provide the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting with $150 million in funds over a fifteen
year period to produce educational television programs through which
viewers could obtain college credits. Annenberg's sympathy for educational
causes had already been evidenced by his financial support of the
Annenberg Schools of Communication at both the University of Pennsylvania
and at the University of Southern California. His activities in
this regard would grow even more pronounced in the years to come,
particularly after his sale of TV Guide and Triangle Publications
to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in 1988 for approximately $3
billion--at the time, the largest price ever commanded for a publishing
to make news after his sale of Triangle because of his many substantial
donations to educational causes. In addition, Annenberg was also
one of the country's foremost collectors of art, and in 1991, he
bequeathed his extensive collection--valued at more than $1 billion--to
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. His post-Triangle era charitable
activities in the areas of education, art, and television served
to further assure Annenberg's lasting legacy to a wide spectrum
of American culture.
Photo courtesy of Walter Annenberg
H(UBERT) ANNENBERG. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 13 March 1908.
Moved with family to Great Neck, Long Island, New York, 1920. Educated
at The Peddie School, Highstown, New Jersey, graduated 1927; attended
Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, 1927-28. Married (1) Veronica Dunkelman, 1938 (divorced,
1950); children: Wallis, Roger (deceased); (2) Leonore (Cohn) Rosentiel.
Joined father, Moses Annenberg, successful publisher, as assistant
in the bookkeeping office, 1928; upon father's death, 1942, assumed
leadership of family business, Triangle Publications, Inc. which
included the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Inquirer, the Daily
Racing Form, the Morning Telegraph, and other minor publications;
founded Seventeen magazine, 1944; TV Guide, 1953;
acquired the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Daily News, 1957;
acquired WFIL-AM and FM radio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1945;
expanded station to television outlet, 1947; acquired radio and
television stations in Altoona and Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Binghamton,
New York; New Haven, Connecticut; Fresno, California; United States
Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 1968-74; sold
Triangle Publications to Rupert Murdoch, 1988. Founder Annenberg
School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania; Annenberg School
for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles,
California; Annenberg Washington Program in Communication Policy
Studies, Washington, D.C.; Annenberg/Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Math & Science Project; Founder, Trustee, Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships,
Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, California. Emeritus Trustee,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)
Museum of Art; University of Pennsylvania; The Peddie School, Highstown,
New Jersey; Churchill Archives Center, Cambridge (England) College.
Recipient: Order of the British Empire (Honorary); Legion of Honor
(France); Order of Merit (Italy); Order of the Crown (Italy); Order
of the Lion (Finland); Bencher of the Middle Temple (Honorary);
Old Etonian (Honorary); Freedom Medal for Pioneering Television
for Educational Purposes, President Ronald Reagan; Gold Medal of
the Pennsylvania Society; Linus Pauling Medal for Humanitarianism;
George Foster Peabody Award; Ralph Lowell Award, Corporation for
Public Broadcasting; Generous American, Town and Country Magazine;
Wagner Medal for Public Service, Robert F. Wagner; Award of Greater
Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; The Churchill Bell Award.
$150 Million Gift for Educational TV." Newsweek (New York),
9 March 1981.
Gives a Life Injection to Public Television."
New York Times, 1 March 1981.
Glenn C., and David I. Grossvogel. Changing Channels: America
in TV Guide. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press,
Blumenstyk, Goldie. "Annenberg Gives $265-million to 3 Universities."
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.), 23
William. "Annenberg to Give Education $500 Million Over Five Years."
New York Times, 17 December 1993.
John. The Annenbergs. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.
Gaeton. Annenberg: A Biography of Power. New York: Weybright
and Talley, 1970.
Karen. "A $50-million Gift Buoys Black Colleges for Ambitious Drive;
Annenberg Makes Big Donation to United Negro College Fund."
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.), 14
Julie L. "Annenberg Shifts Priorities" (interview). The Chronicle
of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.), 12 January 1994.
Russell, John. "Annenberg Picks Met for $1 Billion Gift." New
York Times, 12 March 1991.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Story of the Inquirer 1829 to
the Present. Philadelphia: Triangle Publications, 1956.
James. "It's Elementary." The New Yorker (New York), 17 July
William. "Walter Annenberg Surveys the Land: In Art as in Politics,
the Collector and Former Diplomat Knows What He Likes." Los Angeles
Times, 12 August 1990.