Robert J. Ross, Former CBS Head of East Coast Operations and Engineering, Dead at 70

Robert J. Ross, who oversaw East Coast operations and engineering for the CBS Television Network for nearly two decades and also played a key role in the adoption of new technologies like HD, Surround Sound, and more, died earlier this week at the age of 70.

Robert J. Ross was head of CBS East Coast Operations and played a key role in the deployment of HD and other technologies.

“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.”

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 and also served on the SVG Advisory Board from 2006-2018.

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 CBS/Westinghouse merger, which closed in 1995, Ross was vice president, 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.

Ross is survived by his wife Elizabeth; his daughter Oliva; his son Joseph; his daughter-in-law Janine Ross; his sister Judith Gordon; his brother-in-law Neil; and his nieces, Katie Ferula and Alison Gordon.


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