William Tankersley

Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half hour Archive interview, William Tankersley (1918-2016) discusses his start in CBS promotions and merchandising and his rise to Head of Program Standards & Practices. He recalls CBS' rules about violence, drug use, and political views in television programs. He outlines specific problems Standards & Practices had with The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, All In the Family, and Route 66. Tankersley talks of the differences between his positions in New York and Los Angeles, explains the intricacies of working with program sponsors and advertisers, and comments on what he believes the government's role in broadcasting should be. He talks about what he looked for in his editing staff, recounts working with fellow CBS executives Frank Stanton and Jim Aubrey, and shares stories of some of his favorite entertainers, including Red Skelton and Dick Van Dyke. Don Carleton conducted the interview on May 17, 2001 in Wharton, VA.

"Everything that appears on this network shall be what it purports to be." 

Highlights
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled pregnancy storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
01:00
William Tankersley on William S. Paley's 1948 raid to bring NBC talent to CBS
02:12
William Tankersley on the incidences of violence in The Wild, Wild West
01:09
William Tankersley on his involvement with the CBS loyalty oath and the Hollywood Blacklist
04:59
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on growing up during the Depression; on moving to Arizona
07:08
On attending the Radio Arts Academy in Los Angeles; on re-vamping radio station KLO in Ogden, Utah and getting fired from KDYL in Salt Lake City
On working for KALL; on announcing baseball games for radio; on moving to Hollywood and getting a job at CBS in promotions and merchandising
07:23
On William S. Paley's 1948 raid to bring NBC talent to CBS; on Jack Benny's TV show going over the allotted time and causing problems
04:43
On problems with the TV version of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show; on the radio and TV versions of Amos 'N' Andy
01:43
On his early memories of television
00:54

Chapter 2

On William S. Paley being reluctant to get into television; on serving as Manager of Program Operations in the early 1950s, then becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
14:16
On how CBS Program Practices handled pregnancy storylines and Civil Rights on TV shows in the 1950s
04:16
On Washington D.C.'s interest in violence on television; on dealing with an AFTRA strike; on how CBS Program Practices handled religious storylines and storylines involving drugs on TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s
09:18

Chapter 3

On CBS Standards & Practices not having many issues with daytime soap operas; on dealings with Paul Henning and Sheldon Leonard
04:19
On CBS Standards & Practices having issues with shows paying for commercial plugs; on working with early TV sponsors
06:21

Chapter 4

On how the Quiz Show scandals affected CBS Standards & Practices
04:29
On being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS, moving to New York, and dealing with advertisers
12:02
On differences between the work culture in Los Angeles and New York
01:29
On CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Norman Lear on All In The Family
01:25

Chapter 5

On CBS Standards & Practices work with All In The Family, and The Carol Burnett Show; on his editing staff
07:46
On CBS Standards & Practices' work with Hawaii Five-O; on support from CBS President Jim Aubrey
06:28
On CBS Standards & Practices' problems with The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
06:00
On CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs, M*A*S*H, and Route 66; on why he left CBS
07:52

Chapter 6

On the role government should play in broadcasting; on how the public's perception of network integrity has changed; on peers whom he respected
07:25
On people he mentored; on how he'd like to be remembered; on his favorite entertainers
06:02
Shows

$64,000 Question

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William Tankersley on not being aware of the scandal on the $64,000 Question
00:46

60 Minutes

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs 
02:12

All in the Family

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Norman Lear on All In The Family
01:15
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
05:04
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Norman Lear on specific topics on All In The Family, (contd.)
01:09

Amos 'N' Andy

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William Tankersley on the radio and TV versions of Amos 'N' Andy
00:53

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78)

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with The Carol Burnett Show
00:40

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:19

George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The

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William Tankersley on problems with the TV version of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
00:50
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Carnation on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
00:36

Hawaii Five-O

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Hawaii Five-O
01:37
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Hawaii Five-O
00:34

Jack Benny Program, The

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William Tankersley on Jack Benny's TV show going over the allotted time and causing problems
02:31
William Tankersley on Jack Benny's show plugging various products
00:41

M*A*S*H

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with M*A*S*H
00:43

Playhouse 90

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Rod Serling on Playhouse 90
04:15
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Martin Manulis on Playhouse 90
01:26

Rawhide

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on Rawhide
00:50

Route 66

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on Route 66
01:12
William Tankersley on a scene deemed too violent in Route 66
00:40
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Route 66
01:01

Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
06:00

Twilight Zone, The

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone
00:21

Wild Wild West, The

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William Tankersley on the incidences of violence in The Wild, Wild West
01:09
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

View Topic
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices having issues with shows paying for commercial plugs
03:16
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with early TV sponsors
03:05
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS and dealing with advertisers
02:10
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with advertisers' competitive complaints and false advertising
05:43

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
William Tankersley on becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
01:34
William Tankersley on his process as Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
02:52
William Tankersley on Frank Stanton and William Paley's input on Program Practices at CBS Television City
02:57
William Tankersley on Program Practices' involvement with table reads
01:05
William Tankersley on instances when shows went against the advice of CBS Program Practices
01:30
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled pregnancy storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
01:00
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled personal hygiene commercials and storylines on TV shows in the 1950s and '60s
01:12
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled Civil Rights storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
02:04
William Tankersley on Washington D.C.'s interest in violence on television and dealing with an AFTRA strike
03:59
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled religious storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
03:43
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled storylines involving drugs on TV shows in the 1960s
01:34
William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television
07:04
William Tankersley on CBS' guidelines for current affairs and politics on TV in the 1950s
01:35
William Tankersley on his involvement with the CBS loyalty oath and the Hollywood Blacklist
04:59
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices not having many issues with daytime soap operas
02:01
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices having issues with shows paying for commercial plugs
03:16
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with early TV sponsors
03:05
William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices
04:29
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS and dealing with advertisers
02:10
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with advertisers' competitive complaints and false advertising
05:43
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Playhouse 90 and The Twilight Zone
06:02
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
06:00
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs 
02:35
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
06:13

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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William Tankersley on peers whom he respected
02:55

Criticism of TV

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William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television
07:04

Diversity in Television

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William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled Civil Rights storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
02:04

Historic Events and Social Change

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William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled Civil Rights storylines on TV shows in the 1950s and '60s
02:04

Hollywood Blacklist

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William Tankersley on his involvement with the CBS loyalty oath and the Hollywood Blacklist
04:59

Industry Crossroads

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William Tankersley on his involvement with the CBS loyalty oath and the Hollywood Blacklist
04:59
William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices
04:29

Media Consolidation

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William Tankersley on how media consolidation has affected the industry
00:38

Minorities

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William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled Civil Rights storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
02:04

Pivotal Career Moments

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William Tankersley on peers whom he respected
02:55

Quiz Show Scandals

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William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices
04:29

Richard M. Nixon

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William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled storylines involving drugs on TV shows in the 1960s
00:09

Sex & Violence

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William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television
07:04

Television Industry

View Topic
William Tankersley on becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
01:34
William Tankersley on his process as Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
02:52
William Tankersley on Frank Stanton and William Paley's input on Program Practices at CBS Television City
02:57
William Tankersley on Program Practices' involvement with table reads
01:05
William Tankersley on instances when shows went against the advice of CBS Program Practices
01:30
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled pregnancy storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
01:00
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled personal hygiene commercials and storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
01:12
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled Civil Rights storylines on TV shows in the 1950s and '60s
02:04
William Tankersley on Washington D.C.'s interest in violence on television and dealing with an AFTRA strike
03:59
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled religious storylines on TV shows in the 1950s
03:43
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled storylines involving drugs on TV shows in the 1960s
01:34
William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television
07:04
William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television
07:04
William Tankersley on CBS' guidelines for current affairs and politics on TV in the 1950s
01:35
William Tankersley on his involvement with the CBS loyalty oath and the Hollywood Blacklist
04:59
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices not having many issues with daytime soap operas
02:01
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices having issues with shows paying for commercial plugs
03:16
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with early TV sponsors
03:05
William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices
04:29
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS and dealing with advertisers
02:10
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with advertisers' competitive complaints and false advertising
05:43
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Playhouse 90 and The Twilight Zone
06:02
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
06:00
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs 
02:35
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
06:13
William Tankersley on the role government should play in broadcasting and how cable affected the industry
02:34
William Tankersley on how media consolidation has affected the industry
00:38
William Tankersley on what represents the best of television
00:54

Television and the Presidency

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William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled storylines involving drugs on TV shows in the 1960s
00:08
Professions

Executives

View Profession
William Tankersley on becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
04:26
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS, moving to New York, and dealing with advertisers
06:19

Television Executive

View Profession
William Tankersley on becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
04:26
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS, moving to New York, and dealing with advertisers
06:19
Genres

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices not having many issues with daytime soap operas
02:01

Game Shows

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William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices
04:30

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
06:00
People

Desi Arnaz

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William Tankersley on stories about Desi Arnaz
00:29

James T. Aubrey

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William Tankersley on support from CBS President Jim Aubrey
03:49
William Tankersley on peers whom he respected
00:12

Jack Barry

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William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices
00:54

Jack Benny

View Person Page
William Tankersley on Jack Benny's TV show going over the allotted time and causing problems
02:31
William Tankersley on Jack Benny's show plugging various products
00:41

Herbert Brodkin

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Herbert Brodkin on Playhouse 90
03:25

Fred Brogger

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William Tankersley on members of his staff of editors- Fred Brogger
00:12

Carol Burnett

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with The Carol Burnett Show
00:40

Michael Dann

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
05:04

Bill Dozier

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Bill Dozier on Playhouse 90
01:23

Art Garfunkel

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' issues with a Simon & Garfunkel television special
01:18
William Tankersley on problems getting a sponsor for a Simon & Garfunkel TV special
02:20

Jackie Gleason

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William Tankersley on Jackie Gleason
00:56

Paul Henning

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices not having many issues with The Beverly Hillbillies
00:14

Don Hewitt

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs 
02:12

Norman Lear

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Norman Lear on All In The Family
01:15
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
06:13

Sheldon Leonard

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Sheldon Leonard
02:04

Martin Manulis

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Martin Manulis on Playhouse 90
01:47

Richard M. Nixon

View Person Page
William Tankersley on how CBS Program Practices handled storylines involving drugs on TV shows in the 1960s

William S. Paley

View Person Page
William Tankersley on William S. Paley's 1948 raid to bring NBC talent to CBS
02:12
William Tankersley on William S. Paley being reluctant to get into television
01:38
William Tankersley on Frank Stanton and William Paley's input on Program Practices at CBS Television City
02:57

Irna Phillips

View Person Page
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices not having many issues with daytime soap operas
02:01

Robert Precht

View Person Page
William Tankersley on one of his favorite entertainers, Ed Sullivan, and working with Sullivan's son-in-law, Robert Precht
00:29

Carl Reiner

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:19

Rod Serling

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Rod Serling on Playhouse 90 and The Twilight Zone
04:15

Paul Simon

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' issues with a Simon & Garfunkel television special
01:18
William Tankersley on problems getting a sponsor for a Simon & Garfunkel TV special
02:20

Red Skelton

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William Tankersley on one of his favorite entertainers, Red Skelton
02:28

Tom Smothers

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' problems with The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
06:00

Frank Stanton

View Interview Page
William Tankersley on William S. Paley being reluctant to get into television and Paley's relationship with Frank Stanton
01:38
William Tankersley on Frank Stanton and William Paley's input on Program Practices at CBS Television City
02:57
William Tankersley on Frank Stanton advocating First Amendment freedoms
01:20
William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices, and how canned laughter could be used
02:39
William Tankersley on peers whom he respected
00:30

Ed Sullivan

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William Tankersley on one of his favorite entertainers, Ed Sullivan, and working with Sullivan's son-in-law, Robert Precht
00:29

Danny Thomas

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William Tankersley on how the Quiz Show scandals (which started with NBC shows) affected CBS Standards & Practices, and how canned laughter could be used
00:25

Robert D. Wood

View Person Page
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
05:04
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs 
02:12

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