Lin Bolen, blazed a trail as a TV ex­ec­u­tive

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - News obituaries -

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.

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