Broadcast and cable pioneer Lowell “Bud” Paxson passed away last week. Among many other accomplishments, the devoutly Christian Paxson was the founder of the PAX television network, a broadcast channel devoted entirely to showing clean, family-friendly original programming.
“Bud” Paxson was a true original. After beginning his career in broadcasting at the age of 14, as star of the local radio program Kiddie-Go-Round, by the 1970s Paxson was owner of radio WACK in New York, and a television station in Florida.
When one of his radio advertising clients paid his bill with 118 electric can openers, Paxson announced on the air that he would sell the openers for $10 each, if the customers would come down to the radio station. All the openers sold in three hours. This event inspired Paxson to create the Home Shopping Network, which soon was doing $1 billion in sales. Paxson sold HSN in 1991, using the profits to buy television stations all over the country.
A deeply committed and outspoken evangelical Christian, Paxson was dismayed by the increasingly graphic and immoral content on broadcast and cable TV. Using his fortune and ownership of TV stations as a base, Paxson formed the broadcast network PAX TV in 1998 – a network dedicated to creating and airing original, clean, family-friendly programming, like It’s a Miracle, Hope Island, Doc, and Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye. PAX’s shows contained no profanity or sexual content, and only small amounts of mild violence.
PAX’s programming and philosophy was beloved by many; but sadly, with limited outlets and budget for new shows, it was difficult for PAX to compete with the major broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox (all of which also owned – and received revenue from — several cable networks, as well as other properties like movie studios, recording companies, theme parks, and the like). In 2005 Paxson left the network and PAX was rebranded as ION TV.
In addition to his religious convictions, Paxson was also deeply committed to independent broadcasting. He was a driving force in inserting “must carry” language in the 1992 Cable Act and the 1996 Telecommunications Act. It is thanks to the “must carry” provision that cable and satellite providers are required to carry local broadcast TV stations for their customers. In 2002, Paxson was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith called Paxson “a legend [and] a tenacious advocate for over-the-air radio and television” who “helped sustain diverse voices on the airwaves, and allowed free and local broadcasting to remain a competitive force in today’s multichannel world.”
Television producers (and PTC Advisory Board members) Gary and Dave Alan Johnson – creators of the PAX shows Doc and Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye — mourned Paxson’s passing. “We are grateful for the platform Bud created that welcomed shows like Doc and Sue Thomas:F.B.Eye. He loved those shows!” they said. (To purchase Sue Thomas F.B. Eye on DVD, click here.)
We at the PTC also mourns the passing of “Bud” Paxson. Unlike so many in the entertainment industry today, Paxson was committed to producing television programming which uplifted and entertained viewers, without subjecting them to a non-stop parade of sex jokes and crude language. The PTC honors his noble attempt at creating a family network and providing an alternative to an increasingly dark and depraved media environment.