John O. Pastore, a former U.S. senator from Rhode Island who had a major impact on public and commercial broadcasting industries, died July 15 of kidney failure in a Kingstown, R.I., nursing home. He was 93.
The fiery Democrat wielded great power as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, a post he held during a 25-year Senate career. He was instrumental in the formation of legislation that created the Corp. for Public Broadcasting and PBS.
Pastore was noted for his fierce and combative oratory, much of it directed at the broadcast industry for excessive violence on TV. He enjoyed hauling network chieftains before his panel and lambasting them for perceived inadequate public service. He never shied from using the ultimate weapon, legislation making TV and radio stations accountable at license renewal time.
Pastore made it clear that violence on TV, especially in children’s programming, was one reason he would never support legislation that guaranteed renewal of station licenses.
One prominent victim of Pastore’s clout was James Quello, a Republican broadcaster named to the FCC by President Nixon (and a former Variety scribe). Confirmation hearings before Pastore’s panel were long and arduous, although he was eventually confirmed by the Senate and served a record tenure at the FCC.
Pastore is survived by his wife, Elena Caito Pastore, and children John Pastore Jr., Francesca Pastore and Louise M. Harbourt.