The National Association of Broadcasters Monday saluted
former WGN President and Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Famer Ward
Quaal on the news that he had died Friday at a Chicago nursing home. He
Quaal was a radio and television pioneer who helped build
Tribune's Chicago stations WGN-AM and WGN-TV into dominant stations in
the market and nationwide. He was also a strong advocate for the
broadcasting industry and its First Amendment rights.
"Free and local broadcasting was built by a handful of
visionary giants, but few stood taller than Ward Quaal. During his long
and storied career, Ward Quaal built WGN into an institution whose
impact extended far beyond Chicago, and he counted
as friends even those who occupied the Oval Office," said NAB President
Gordon Smith. "NAB extends our sympathy to the Quaal family and we
mourn the passing of this broadcast pioneer."
Quaal was a frequent visitor to Washington, attending FCC
proceedings and Hill hearings. "I have always fet that when you are in a
regulated industy, you have to be on top of everything that takes place
in Washington," he once told B&C's Washington
Bureau Chief. "You have to know the FCC and all of the staff, and you
have to have the closest possible contacts on Capitol Hill."
Quaal certainly had some top contacts. He was
instrumental in the broadcaster push to get President Ronald Reagan, a
former broadcaster and Illinois native, to veto a legislative attempt to
reinstate the fairness doctrine, which the FCC had jettisoned
in 1987 as unconstitutional. The doctrine required broadcasters to offer to air opposing sides on controversial issues of public importance.
"Ward Quaal belongs in the pantheon of broadcast leadership along with [RCA's] David Sarnoff, and [CBS'] William Paley and Frank Stanton," said Don West, President of the Library of American Broadcasting and former editor of B&C.