George Shannon, a senior CBS executive over two decades and a lifelong resident of Farmingdale and West Islip, died Monday after a long illness. He was 83.
Shannon, as CBS president of operations and engineering, oversaw one the broadcaster’s most critical divisions during a period of rapid technological change. By the time he left the role in 1986 — in the midst of companywide layoffs that saw the elimination of 700 jobs — CBS was the world’s dominant broadcasting force, with TV affiliates in over two hundred cities and dozens of CBS News bureaus around the world. The operations and engineering group provided the technical latticework for the entire company, including prime time, radio and sports. With a reliance on live feeds and satellite hookups, sports over those years was perhaps the most critical component.
Shannon also represented the U.S. at a 1984 conference held by Pope John Paul II concerning “ethics in the media,” according to his son, Michael.
Born in Farmingdale in 1932, Shannon went to St. Kilian School, and Farmingdale High, graduating from Pace University in Brooklyn, with a major in accounting. After a two-year stint in the Army, Shannon joined New York’s WCBS/2 in 1963, later becoming head of finance, labor relations, personnel, planning and administration for the station. He joined the broadcast group in a similar role for the owned stations division in 1972. He was appointed president of operations and engineering in 1977.
Shannon’s son, Michael, a managing member and portfolio manager for Valhalla-based Westchester Capital Management, said in a phone interview that his father “was responsible for the broadcast production facilities nationwide, including remote production for sporting events and major news coverage.” He also supervised an overhaul of CBS News’ West 57th Street production center and CBS’ sprawling facility in Los Angeles, Television City.
Shannon said his father left the role in 1986 rather than preside over layoffs within his own division. He left CBS two years after that.
Shannon — whose wife, Rita, predeceased him by six years — is survived by three children, Michael, of Manhattan, Barbara Ann Kelly, of Cold Spring Harbor, Sharon Ann Fuentes of Lloyd Harbor; and six grandchildren.
A Mass will be celebrated Saturday at 10 a.m. at Babylon’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where Shannon was a longtime congregant and choir member.