SALHANY, LUCY

U.S. Broadcasting Executive

Lucille S. (Lucie) Salhany became the first woman to manage an American broadcast television network when she was appointed chairman of FOX Broadcasting Company in January 1993. The company, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's FOX Incorporated, is the fourth national television network to be formed in the United States, after ABC, CBS, and NBC. Salhany resigned from FOX in July 1994 and became the president and chief executive officer of the nascent United Paramount Network (UPN) where she supervised the broadcast inauguration of the network in January 1995.

In the history of American television broadcasting there had been no previous female managers who had shattered the "glass ceiling" barrier to the senior executive suite. Salhany started her career in programming at the station level in Cleveland in 1967, and by 1979 she had become vice president for programming for the Taft Broadcasting Company. She moved to Paramount Domestic Television in Los Angeles as president in 1985 and supervised the production of Entertainment Tonight, The Arsenio Hall Show, Hard Copy, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The latter program, a revival of the original television classic, was to become one of the most successful syndicated programs in international broadcast history.

Salhany had acquired an insider's knowledge of television broadcast programming at the station-level, and used this expertise to craft a number of series that were highly salable in syndication. At the time of the premiere of The Arsenio Hall Show, the program introduced a number of innovations in talk show form and content--not the least of which was the replacement of the traditional host-at-a-desk with comfortable sofas allowing greater interaction between host and guest.

Salhany was recruited from Paramount by FOX Broadcasting CEO Barry Diller to manage Twentieth Television--the production and distribution arm of the network--at a time when the parent company was becoming a formidable competitor to the traditional big three networks. Salhany's open management style was well received by FOX station affiliates, and she was selected by Rupert Murdoch as head of FOX Broadcasting after Diller's departure. However, the rapid growth of the network came to a halt during the 1993-94 season as the number of viewers declined and efforts to reach older viewers were not successful. Salhany had championed the Chevy Chase Show in the late night market, and her tenure at FOX was jeopardized when the program proved to be a brief and expensive failure. Murdoch had increasingly taken over hands-on management of his broadcast operations, and when he proposed that Salhany report to him through an intermediary she resigned and moved back to Paramount as they were about to launch their UPN network.

Lucie Salhany is a perceptive television executive who understands the intricacies of affiliate programming needs and network production operations. Her success in syndicated programming at Paramount and in operations at Twentieth Television enabled her to rise into the rarefied, but often-tenuous, environment of senior network management.

-Peter B. Seel

 


Lucie Salhany
Photo courtesy of Lucie Salhany

LUCIE (LUCILLE) S. SALHANY. Married, two children. Began television career as program director, WKBF-TV, Cleveland, 1967; program manager, WLVI-TV, Boston, from 1975; vice president of television and cable programming, Taft Broadcasting Co., 1979-85; president, Paramount Domestic Television, Paramount Pictures, 1985-91; chair, Twentieth Television (a division of FOX Broadcasting Company), 1991; chair, FOX Broadcasting Company, 1993-94; named president and chief executive officer, United Paramount Network, 1994. Honorary degree: doctorate of humane letters, Emerson College, Boston, 1991. Member: board of directors, Fox Inc.; board of directors, Emerson College; executive committee, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Theater, Film and Television; board, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; board, Hollywood Supports. Recipient: American Jewish Committee's Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award (first woman recipient), 1995; American Women in Radio & Television's Silver Satellite Award, 1995. Address: United Paramount Network, 5555 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90038-3197, U.S.; 11800 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90025, U.S.A.

FURTHER READING

"Fox's Passionate Pro." Broadcasting & Cable (Washington, D.C.), 1 March 1993.

Harris, Kathryn. "Madame Chairman." Forbes (New York), 5 August 1991.

Tobenkin, D. "Fox's New Team at the Top." Broadcasting & Cable (Washington, D.C.), 11 July 1994.

"The View from Atop Twentieth" (interview). Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.) 21 January 1992.

 

See also Diller, Barry; FOX Broadcasting Company; Murdoch, Rupert