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Norm Pattiz, radio pioneer and Westwood One founder, dies

Norm Pattiz, the founder of Westwood One, appears in an undated photo.
Norm Pattiz, the founder of Westwood One, appears in an undated photo. (Image via Facebook.com, Graphic by The Desk)

Norm Pattiz, a consummate broadcaster whose Westwood One syndicated programming network would come to dominate AM radio, died on Sunday at the age of 79.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but confirmed by officials at Westwood One parent company Cumulus Media on Monday.

Pattiz began his lengthy broadcast career in the early 1970s as a sales official with Los Angeles television station KCOP (Channel 13). In 1976, he left KCOP to start Westwood One, the program syndicator that would dominate the bulk of his career in media.

In 1985, he engineered the purchase of Mutual Broadcasting System, one of the biggest radio networks in the United States. Two years later, his empire grew bigger with the acquisition of the NBC Radio Network, to which he licensed the NBC brand name from General Electric for continued use.

In the early 1990s, control of Westwood One shifted to Mel Karmazin and Infinity Broadcasting (later acquired by CBS Radio). Pattiz remained chairman of the company until 2010, at which point he moved on to found the on-demand audio network PodcastOne.

During his time at PodcastOne, Pattiz helped propel on-demand audio into the mainstream, first with an on-demand version of the Adam Carolla show, and later through partnerships with legacy brands, including the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

“Norm Pattiz and his rolled-up game program were fixtures at Lakers home games for decades,” a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Lakers said in a social media post on Monday. “We will always treasure his spirit for the game and love for the team. He will be missed.”

Colleagues remembered Pattiz as a “media visionary” who left an indelible and long-lasting impression on the industry.

“He founded Westwood One, which grew to become the largest radio network in the United States and one of the top media companies in the world,” Suzanne Grimes, the president of Westwood One at Cumulus Media, said on Monday. “His legacy lives on in all of us at Westwood One.”

Pattiz was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame for his work at Westwood One in 2019, and he received the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation’s Giants of Broadcasting Award that same year.

In 2001, Pattiz was appointed by then-California Governor Gray Davis to the University of California board of regents, a position he held for 16 years. He resigned in 2017 after a comedian and podcast host accused him of sexual harassment at his PodcastOne studios in Los Angeles; Pattiz apologized for the incident, according to a Los Angeles Times article, and said his decision to resign was not due to public pressure over the episode.

It was not clear if funeral arrangements were being prepared for Pattiz.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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