CBS Vet Martin Franks to Retire in September

Respected exec played influential role in broadcast policy issues for 25 years

Martin Franks has been a quiet power behind the throne at CBS for a quarter century. On Wednesday, he took a moment in the spotlight to announce his plan to retire on Sept. 30.

Franks, exec veep of planning, policy and government affairs for CBS Corp., has been at the center of policy and regulatory issues for the Eye since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

As one of a clutch of influential Big Four network policy execs and lobbyists, Franks helped instigate changes that have driven hundreds of millions of dollars to CBS’ bottom line, notably through the implementation of retransmission consent in the mid-1990s and the repeal a few years later of the FCC’s financial interest in syndication rule, which opened the door to CBS (again) to get into the primetime production business.

In a memo to CBS staffers on Wednesday, Moonves noted that without the end of fin-syn (a nickname from a bygone era), CBS never would have realized some $3 billion in revenue from the “CSI” series alone.

“Despite these extremely significant contributions, though, Marty’s greatest asset to CBS may be his good humor and charm, and his uncanny ability to take on disparate tasks and get them done with skill and grace,” Moonves wrote. ” These traits have generated enormous goodwill for us over the years.  In an announcement years ago, I referred to Marty as both “glue and grease” at CBS: glue helping to hold together our many parts, and the grease helping all those parts to work together more smoothly.  We are all better off for his many, largely unsung efforts in this vein.”

In his own memo, Franks cited the bosses he’s had over the years since joining CBS in 1988 as a veep in Washington. He came to the network biz after 15 years as a D.C. insider, working on staff for President Jimmy Carter, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, and Congressman Tony Coelho.

“I have also had great bosses who gave me wonderful opportunities: Larry and Bob Tisch, Jay Kriegel, Howard Stringer, Peter Lund, Mike Jordan, Mel Karmazin and, for nearly half of my CBS career, Leslie Moonves,” Franks wrote. “Leslie called on me to play a supporting role in the incredible job he has done to build the new CBS, and for that and so much more, I will always be grateful.”

Among the other highlights of his tenure that Frank mentioned was “trying to uphold Broadcast Standards during a wardrobe malfunction,” a reference to the Janet Jackson 2004 Super Bowl incident, and getting “my very own Chuck Lorre vanity card.”

In media circles, Franks was respected as a straight-shooter, and for his clear-eyed analysis of industry issues and the politics behind them.

In a statement, National Assn. of Broadcasters prexy Gordon Smith called Franks “an unsung superstar” of broadcasting.

“His wise Washington guidance helped broadcasters procure retransmission consent fees in the 1992 Cable Act,” Smith said. “As Leslie Moonves’s ‘go-to guy’ in New York, Marty has provided counsel and advice as solid as a Black Rock.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Apple TV Plus

    Apple TV Plus Will Cost $9.99 per Month, to Launch in November (Report)

    Apple is reportedly looking to launch the Apple TV Plus subscription-video service in November — around when Disney Plus is set to debut — for $9.99 per month. Apple TV Plus will bow in November with a “small selection” of shows, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources. At $9.99, which analysts have guessed would be the [...]

  • RuPaul Charles - Outstanding Reality -

    RuPaul Charles to Receive Variety's Vanguard Award at Mipcom

    “RuPaul’s Drag Race” leader RuPaul Charles has been tapped to receive the Variety Vanguard Award at the Mipcom international TV sales conference, set for Oct. 14-17 in Cannes. The award recognizes television industry leaders who have made a significant contribution to the global business of entertainment. Charles has hosted and executive produced the VH1 franchise “RuPaul’s Drag [...]

  • The Tempest review all female

    Harriet Walter Joins 'Killing Eve' as Third Season Begins Production

    British actress Harriet Walter has joined the cast of BBC America’s multi-award winning “Killing Eve” for its third season, which began production this week. Danny Sapani has also been announced to join the cast of the show, which stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. The Olivier Award-winning and Tony-nominated Walter recently finished production on Julian [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix has drops the first trailer for “The Politician,” and “Killing Eve” adds two to its cast for season 3.  CASTING Harriet Walter and Danny Sapani, both alums of “The Crown,” are set to join the cast of “Killing Eve” for its third season. British writer Suzanne Heathcote, whose past credits include [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Disneyland

    Disney Shares Slip Amid Reported Whistleblower Allegations of Inflated Revenue

    Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst for Disney’s revenue operations unit, says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the entertainment conglomerate repeatedly and systematically overstated its revenue for years, according to a MarketWatch report, by as much as $6 billion in a single [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content