Frederick W. Ford, 76, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission who instituted a policy of aggressive regulation of the broadcast industry in the early 1960s, died of cancer July 26 at a hospital in Hinsdale, Ill.
Mr. Ford, a longtime resident of Alexandria where he was a founder of the Old Town Civic Association, was hospitalized in Illinois to be near his daughter.
After leaving the FCC, Mr. Ford served six years as president of the National Cable Television Association, during a period when cable television was in its infancy.
At the time of his death, he was senior partner in the Washington law firm of Pepper and Corazzini. He practiced communications law here since leaving the Cable Television Association in 1970, and was an investor, adviser and participant in several business ventures seeking cable television franchises.
Mr. Ford was named to the FCC by President Eisenhower in 1957. He was appointed chairman in 1960 at a time when the commission was under attack for what was widely perceived as a failure to provide any meaningful regulation of broadcasting. Within a few weeks after assuming the chairmanship, Mr. Ford declared that the commission had authority to determine program balance within the industry, and he said he intended to see to it that the commission exercised that authority.
He set up a unit to monitor program content against what stations promised they would do in applying for licenses and he held up renewals when the performances failed to match the promises. He computed the amount of money that was being spent on political advertising, and he made the totals public in a report to Congress.
Not surprisingly, his actions provoked some protests from industry executives who accused him of trying to determine program content, an accusation Mr. Ford vigorously denied.
A native of Bluefield, W.Va., Mr. Ford graduated from West Virginia University, where he also earned a law degree. He practiced law in Clarksburg before coming to Washington in 1939 to join the old Federal Security Agency. Later he worked for the old Office of Price Administration, then served in the Army Air Forces during World War II.
He joined the staff of the FCC in 1946, and in 1950 he became the first chief of the hearing division of the broadcast bureau. From 1953 to 1957, he was with the Justice Department and was assistant deputy attorney general when he was named an FCC commissioner.
He was influential in the restoration of 18th-century houses in Old Town Alexandria and restored two houses there himself in the late 1940s. In 1950, Mr. Ford was president of the restoration-minded Alexandria Association when the city decided to tear down the ramshackle Ramsay House, the oldest in the city, and he persuaded the City Council to permit the association to restore the building.
Mr. Ford also was a former vestryman and junior warden of Christ Church in Alexandria and a member of the board of governors of St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School for Boys. He was active in the Little Theatre of Alexandria.
His first wife, the former Virginia Lee Carter, died in 1958. His marriage to Mary Margaret Mahoney ended in divorce.
Survivors include one daughter by his first marriage, Mary Carter Beary of Naperville, Ill.; one son by his second marriage, Frederick W. Ford Jr. of Miami; two sisters, Margaret Hall of Beckley, W.Va., and Linn Saunders of North Royalton, Ohio, and three grandchildren.