Robert E. Kintner, 71, a former president of both the ABC and NBC radio television networks who was largely responsible for innovations that are now common practices in the broadcasting industry, was found dead yesterday at his home in Washington. He had a heart ailment.
Mr. Kintner's particular interest as a broadcast executive in the early days of television was news. He pushed constantly for expanded budgets for the news operations. One result was the increasing frequency of special reports for which regularly scheduled programs -- some of them highly profitable -- were canceled for the night. At ABC, he ordered full live coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. At NBC, he organized the famous Huntley-Brinkley news anchor team.
At the same time, he made some notably successful decisions in the entertainment field. At ABC, which he joined in 1944 and where he was president from 1950 to 1956, Mr. Kintner brought "Disneyland" to television. pOne of its first long episodes was "Davy Crockett" and the Disney program became one of the network's major money-makers for several years.
When Mr. Kintner went to NBC, where he was president from 1957 to 1966, the Disney series went with him. He also switched "Bonanza" from Thursday night, where it was doing badly, to Sunday night, and the show became a long-running staple of television.
Mr. Kintner was born in Stroudsburg, Pa., and graduated from Swarthmore College. He began his career as a financial reporter for the old New York Herald Tribune. The newspaper sent him to Washington in 1933 to cover the Treasury Department. From 1937 to 1941, he wrote a column with Joseph Alsop and also wrote two successful books with Alsop, "Men Around the President" (1939) and "American White Paper," an examination of American foreign policy on the eve of World War II, which appeared in 1940.
Recalling those days, Alsop said in an interview that Mr. Kintner's special gift as a reporter was his friendship with many of the top administrators of the New Deal at a time when few reporters, Alsop included, knew little more than their names. His coverage of the Treasury was remarkable for its completeness and accuracy and this led Alsop, who also worked for the Herald Tribune, to invite Mr. Kintner to join him in writing a column. It was called "The Capital Parade" and before long it was appearing in almost 100 newspapers.
In 1941, Mr. Kintner went into the Army Air Corps. He was discharged on medical grounds in 1944, having been injured in an airplane crash. One of his Washington sources was Edward J. Noble, a former under secretary of Commerce who was to become owner and chairman of the American Broadcasting Co. When Mr. Kintner left the service, Noble hired him as a vice president in charge of public relations. From the beginning, he was interested in expanding radio coverage of the news. When television came, television news became a particular interest.
A landmark in television news was ABC's coverage of the congressional hearings in 1954 on a dispute between Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican who made his career out of the anti-communist hysteria of the early 1950s, and the Army. The hearings included a famous dressing down of McCarthy by Joseph N. Welch, a Boston attorney who had been hired to represent the Army.The fact that it was all on television contributed to the rapid decline in McCarthy's fortunes that followed.
At NBC, which hired him away from ABC, Mr. Kintner was impressed by the coverage David Brinkley and Chet Huntley gave to the 1956 political conventions. So he began "The Huntley-Brinkley Report," a new and enormously successful concept for the network's evening news program.
Among the special events that Mr. Kintner ordered covered was the funeral of John Foster Dulles, President Eisenhower's first secretary of state.At that time, television did not cover funerals. Both the public and the critics acclaimed the program. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Kintner ordered round-the-clock coverage and had all commercials canceled.
Julian Goodman, who was the NBC vice president for news at the time and who later became president of the network, recalled yesterday that Mr. Kintner insisted that NBC furnish live coverage when Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's alleged assassin, was removed from the Dallas jail. Thus NBC was there when Oswald was shot to death by Jack Ruby.
After he left NBC, Mr. Kintner was a White House adviser under President Johnson. He later became a consultant and an investor.
In a statement issued yesterday, Fred Silverman, now president of NBC, said: "Bob Kintner was a man of outstanding leadership, strong managerial ability and great insight. His leadership with NBC at a time when television was undergoing major changes enabled all of NBC, and particularly NBC News, to expand and prosper. While NBC benefited most from Bob Kintner's guidance and knowledge, the industry as a whole is immeasurably better for his having worked with us."
Mr. Kintner was a recipient of the Keynote Award of the National Association of Radio and TV Broadcasters.
Mr. Kintner was twice married and twice divorced. Survivors include three children.