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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.”

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