TV Visionary Roone Arledge Passes Away

TV Visionary Roone Arledge Passes Away

I had to sit on his doorstep for ages, because he was the kind of person you could not get a quick answer out of,” said Dick Button, speaking about television pioneer Roone Arledge, who died of complications from cancer on Dec. 5 at the age of 71. At the time of his death, he was chairman of ABC News.

Arledge was president of ABC Sports from 1968 to 1986. he first joined ABC Sports in I960 as a producer. In 1961, he was instrumental in bringing Wide World of Sports to the air, which would soon become a home for the sport of figure skating.

Arledge put figure skating on the air in 1962, the first World Championships after the plane crash in which the U.S. team was killed.

“Then ABC fell in love with figure skating,” said Button.

“He surrounded himself with people in whose creative abilities he had faith,” said director Doug Wilson. “I would comfortably be able to say he gave us a free skate. He gave us a free hand to go out and do what we believed in.”

For Wilson, his first time directing a figure skating broadcast, the 1967 U.S. Nationals, wasn’t very successful. “He took me aside and gave me time to talk about directing, particularly relating to figure skating,” Wilson recalled. “He told me that a great director has to call upon a sixth sense that is either created by vast experience or is innate to be able to know where and when to be able to look at certain angles.”

With that thought in mind, Wilson developed a directing technique for skating that has defined televised coverage of the sport.

From 1977 to 1986, Arledge served as president of both ABC Sports and ABC News. Although he transitioned over exclusively to news in 1986, he did serve as the executive producer of ABC’s coverage of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. He always kept an eye on skating. After the 1998 U.S. Nationals, he wrote Wilson a note praising the coverage.

“He was the one who understood that figure skating and television were a perfect marriage,” said Wilson.

Copyright Ashton International Media, Inc. Apr 2003

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