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." 

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

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on growing up during the Depression; on moving to Arizona
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
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
On problems with the TV version of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show; on the radio and TV versions of Amos 'N' Andy
On his early memories of television

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
On how CBS Program Practices handled pregnancy storylines and Civil Rights on TV shows in the 1950s
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

Chapter 3

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

Chapter 4

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

Chapter 5

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

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
On people he mentored; on how he'd like to be remembered; on his favorite entertainers
Shows

$64,000 Question

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

60 Minutes

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

All in the Family

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

Amos 'N' Andy

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

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78)

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

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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

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
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Carnation on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

Hawaii Five-O

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Hawaii Five-O
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Hawaii Five-O

Jack Benny Program, The

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

M*A*S*H

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

Playhouse 90

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Rod Serling on Playhouse 90
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' workings with Martin Manulis on Playhouse 90

Rawhide

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on Rawhide

Route 66

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on Route 66
William Tankersley on a scene deemed too violent in Route 66
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Route 66

Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The

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

Twilight Zone, The

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

Wild Wild West, The

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

Advertising and Sponsorship

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

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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William Tankersley on peers whom he respected

Criticism of TV

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William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television

Diversity in Television

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

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

Hollywood Blacklist

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

Industry Crossroads

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

Media Consolidation

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William Tankersley on how media consolidation has affected the industry

Minorities

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

Pivotal Career Moments

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William Tankersley on peers whom he respected

Quiz Show Scandals

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

Richard M. Nixon

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

Sex & Violence

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William Tankersley on CBS' expected limitations of violence on television

Television Industry

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

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
Professions

Executives

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William Tankersley on becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS, moving to New York, and dealing with advertisers

Television Executive

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William Tankersley on becoming the Director of Program Practices at CBS Television City
William Tankersley on being promoted to Vice President of Program Practices at CBS, moving to New York, and dealing with advertisers
Genres

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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

Game Shows

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

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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

Desi Arnaz

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William Tankersley on stories about Desi Arnaz

James T. Aubrey

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William Tankersley on support from CBS President Jim Aubrey
William Tankersley on peers whom he respected

Jack Barry

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

Jack Benny

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

Herbert Brodkin

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

Fred Brogger

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William Tankersley on members of his staff of editors- Fred Brogger

Carol Burnett

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

Michael Dann

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

Bill Dozier

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

Art Garfunkel

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

Jackie Gleason

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William Tankersley on Jackie Gleason

Paul Henning

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

Don Hewitt

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

Norman Lear

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

Sheldon Leonard

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

Martin Manulis

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

Richard M. Nixon

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

William S. Paley

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William Tankersley on William S. Paley's 1948 raid to bring NBC talent to CBS
William Tankersley on William S. Paley being reluctant to get into television
William Tankersley on Frank Stanton and William Paley's input on Program Practices at CBS Television City

Irna Phillips

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

Robert Precht

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

Carl Reiner

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

Rod Serling

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

Paul Simon

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

Red Skelton

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William Tankersley on one of his favorite entertainers, Red Skelton

Tom Smothers

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

Frank Stanton

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

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

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

Robert D. Wood

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William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' work with Norman Lear on All In The Family, (contd.)
William Tankersley on CBS Standards & Practices' interactions with news programs 

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