As founder and chair of Westwood One, the biggest
radio network in the country, Norman J. Pattiz has an impact on what's carried over the airwaves in the United States and beyond. Now that he is a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, he has an even greater voice in international broadcasting.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the government's nonmilitary international broadcasting services, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. Pattiz was appointed to the nine-member board by President Clinton last year. While serving on a committee reviewing the collection of 61 different languages in which programs are broadcast, Pattiz said, "it became obvious that what we were doing in the Middle East was insignificant at best. U.S. broadcasts make little if any impact."
In other parts of the world people have sought out U.S. broadcasts as a source of unbiased information, Pattiz told The Journal.
"I've come to realize the roles these stations have played in places like Kosovo and Bosnia. They were the most listened-to broadcast services in the region during tense times, especially right around the downfall of Milosevic," he said. "During periods of crisis, people turn them on to find out what's going on."
Yet in the Middle East, he estimates that U.S. broadcasts achieve less than 1 percent penetration in the region.
After Pattiz pointed out this deficiency to the Broadcasting Board, he soon found himself chair of its Middle East Committee. He recently embarked on a fact-finding mission that involved meetings with government officials, ministers of information, broadcasters, academics and others in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories and Qatar.
"There's a media war within the region," Pattiz said, and it entails disinformation, hate radio and incitement to violence.
As a result of the committee's work, Voice of America now has an opportunity to make a major impact through a 24-hour broadcasting network. "Broadcasts will originate from the region and truly engage Arab listeners," Pattiz said, noting that the network will "uniquely present America and its policies with the immediacy and relevance of a local broadcaster."
Broadcasting accurate, timely and relevant news and information about the region and the United States will advance U.S. strategic interests and benefit all parties in the region, Pattiz says.
Pattiz is no stranger to Middle Eastern politics. He has been an active force in the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), an organization which promotes U.S. awareness and involvement in the Middle East peace process. Becoming involved shortly after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Pattiz soon traveled to the Middle East to meet with key Israeli politicians and King Abdullah II of Jordan. He hosts IPF monthly roundtable discussions where prominent community members meet with Israeli leaders, media representatives or other individuals with unique insight about the Middle East.
In 1999, Pattiz was honored by IPF at a tribute dinner where former Prime Minister Ehud Barak presented the award and called Pattiz "an ever-increasingly important conduit of information and good will." Last spring, Pattiz and his wife hosted a private reception at their home for Queen Noor of Jordan to raise funds for the King Hussein Foundation, which promotes democracy and peace in the Middle East.
Regarding the acceleration of turmoil in the region, Pattiz said, "It's tragic. [Peace] seemed so close."
But he's not ready to give up on the idea.
"Peace is an absolute necessity in the region for all parties.... Nothing has changed about the basics of why the peace has to happen and will eventually happen," Pattiz said. "What has changed is the realization that while we've been preparing ourselves for peace, the Palestinian side has not really worked with its population to get them ready for a real, lasting, achievable peace process."
Here at home, Pattiz also serves at the state level. He was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the California Commission on Building for the 21st Century, which looks at how the state should address building and infrastructure needs such as transportation, natural resources and technology in order to best meet the demands of the future.
"Norm is not just a successful entrepreneur ... he's a committed civic leader," Davis said. "He's got great energy and ideas, which he brings to all of his endeavors."
Pattiz lends his support to the Democratic Party locally and nationally. He attended the Democratic National Convention and hosted a reception for Davis and approximately 200 members of the national press who were covering the convention. Earlier this month, he joined Democratic senators visiting California as part of a national fundraising effort. And last week, he attended a small private dinner for Clinton at the home of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. A Southern California native, Pattiz, 58, credits his community involvement to his Jewish upbringing.
"My mother's parents were Orthodox Jews ... I have very fond and intense memories of my grandparents. Every Jewish holiday was a day where we would spend time in shul and then spend time at my grandmother's house, where the family would gather and have a meal together.
"I consider myself a moral person, a caring person, a fair person," Pattiz added. "And I think all of those things come from my background as a Jew."
This outlook fuels his philosophy on political activism. "If you've been fortunate enough to be successful, [political activism] is almost a requirement," he said. "I think it's important if you're caring and have a point of view, you do what you can to support people and politicians and causes and countries that share those views."
Pattiz remains loyal to his alma mater, Hamilton High School, and recruited record and music companies to help Hamilton become a magnet school for music and the performing arts. He personally donated funds to transform the school's auditorium into a marble-and-glass-bedecked theater, which was officially designated the Norman J. Pattiz Concert Hall. Last summer, he spearheaded a gala that raised more than $400,000 for Hamilton's Academy of Music.
Pattiz has served as president of the
Broadcast Education Association (BEA), where
he sought to connect academia with the broadcast industry to foster student interest in broadcasting careers. He serves as trustee for
the Museum of Television & Radio and the Hollywood Radio and Television Society, as
well as on several university communications boards. He was a force behind last October's
Los Angeles Radio Festival, a first-time
weeklong event of seminars, broadcasts and special events for the radio community and
the public, which is slated to become an
Pattiz approaches his personal life with the same vigor he lavishes on his professional and political activities. He met his wife, Mary Turner, through the radio business. Turner was a disc jockey at local rock station KMET, and Pattiz was looking for someone to host the rock interview show "Off the Record." Because Turner "knew every major artist in town," Pattiz said, she was a natural choice.
"I've been in the business a long time, so I know sometimes the voice and the image don't match," he said about Turner. "When I finally found a woman on the radio who looked as good as she sounded, I married her." They have been together for 21 years.
At Westwood One, the radio network he founded in 1974 as a one-room operation, Pattiz spends much of his time conceptualizing projects and making deals with artists and recording companies to generate entertainment programs for broadcast. The company has earned a reputation for blockbuster entertainment programming, airing concerts by such megastars as Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney. Last week, it aired Bruce Springsteen's HBO concert.
Pattiz seems to thrive on the variety of endeavors that has him speaking on the phone to Barbra Streisand and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh on the same day, and a few days later, attending a seder for about 100 people hosted by Maverick Records' Guy Oseary.
"I'm a very lucky guy," Pattiz said.