Lin Bolen, blazed a trail as a TV executive
Lin Bolen, who as the executive in charge of NBC’s daytime programming in the early 1970s was the highest-ranking woman in television, died on Jan. 18 in Santa Monica, Calif. Most online sources put her age at 76.
Her friend Lisa Demberg confirmed the death. The cause was not specified.
Ms. Bolen was just 31 in 1972 when she was named director of daytime programs at NBC, putting her in charge of the network’s collection of soap operas and game shows. A year later, she was given the title of vice president for daytime programs — “the highest position a woman has so far achieved in network programming,” The New York Times reported.
In that job, which she held until forming her own production company in 1976, she energized the network’s game shows and expanded half-hour soaps to an hour. By 1975, NBC’s daytime ratings surpassed both CBS and ABC for the first time in a dozen years.
Accounts vary as to whether Ms. Bolen was the inspiration for Diana Christensen, the do-anything-for-ratings network executive played by Faye Dunaway in the 1976 film “Network,” written by Paddy Chayefsky. Ms. Bolen herself was somewhat equivocal.
Although sources differ on the date, by most accounts Ms. Bolen was born on March 21, 1941, in Benton, Ill. Her father was a union organizer for the United Mine Workers. She went to a finishing school in St. Louis, then studied advertising at City College of New York but did not graduate. (”I don’t think a degree is very important,” she told The Times in 1972.)
In 1972, after only six months with NBC, Ms. Bolen wangled an interview for the post of daytime director; which had suddenly become vacant.
When an NBC executive asked her why she should get the job, she pointed out that daytime TV viewers were overwhelmingly female.
“I’m a woman and I understand that audience,” she said.