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Bud Paxson, Founder of Home Shopping Network and Pax TV, Dies at 79

Bud Paxson, Creator of Home Shopping
Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

Lowell “Bud” Paxson, the co-creator of Home Shopping Network who later amassed a trove of TV stations and launched the family-friendly network Pax TV, had died at his home in Montana. He was 79.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters said late Monday that Paxson died Jan. 9. NAB president Gordon Smith called Paxson “a true giant of broadcasting.”

“Broadcasters have lost a friend and a legend in the passing of Bud Paxson, who was a tenacious advocate for over-the-air radio and televsion,” Smith said in a statement.

Paxson was in his 20s when, after graduating from Syracuse University, he acquired a small radio station, WACK, in upstate Newark, N.Y. He later owned a radio station in Clearwater, Fla., where an advertiser gave him 118 can openers as payment. Paxson told the station’s on-air personalities to hawk the can openers on air, and they quickly sold out.

Paxson and business partner Roy Speer launched what became known as Home Shopping Network in 1982, and the concept of over-the-air shopping quickly took off. The company was later sold to Barry Diller.

In the 1990s, after departing Home Shopping Network, Paxson began buying TV and radio stations, becoming one of the largest owners in the country. He lobbied strenuously to have uphold the FCC’s “must-carry” rule mandating that cable operators include all local broadcast stations in a given market on their channel offerings. That rule ensured that large broadcast groups like Paxson were assured distribution even if the stations were weak, little-watched UHF outlets.

After the regulatory overhaul ushered in by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Paxson sold his radio stations to Clear Channel Communications. He then focused on buying up TV stations, often in outlying areas of large and medium-sized markets through his Paxson Communications banner. Once he had more than 80 stations under his belt, the company launched the Pax TV network in 1998.

The network’s aim was to try to fill a void with family programming, via such original dramas as “Doc” starring Billy Ray Cyrus, and “Mysterious Ways,” starring Adrian Pasdar, along with a mix of reruns. The network lasted until 2005, when it was rebranded as i: Independent Television, and is today known as Ion Media Networks.

NBCUniversal was an investor in the company for a time. Ion TV underwent a bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. By then, Paxson had left the company.

Paxson is survived by his wife, Marla; four children and six grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for Jan. 22 at the Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.