This just in from Laura Leff, president of the Jack Benny fan club.
"In December 2008 when I was at CBS overseeing the color specials transfer, I was told that CBS had the Benny television program masters. I was breathless!
I got a listing of their holdings, and selected about 25 shows that are currently uncirculated and in the public domain. I sent the request for us to digitally preserve these shows, at the IJBFC's cost, to Lorra-Lea Bartlett, the Manager of the CBS Contracts Rights and Clearances department.
This was followed by about nine months of waiting for the CBS New York legal department to respond to the request. On September 7th, I was asked to provide a letter from the Benny Estate requesting that the programs be released, and "that should get this unstuck." The Estate happily provided the letter to CBS. I continued to follow up weekly for status.
Today I was informed by Peter Murray, Lorra-Lea's assistant, that she had talked with CBS' Vice President of Business Affairs, and "there are so many issues with those shows, that even if we took the time to figure it out, we still almost certainly wouldn't do the deal." So that's it. Access to the Jack Benny television masters is sealed.
In 1964, James Aubrey told Jack Benny that his weekly television series was terminated with the words, "YOU'RE THROUGH, OLD MAN!" Sadly, 46 years later, CBS has repeated the sentiment by condemning these shows to permanent silence.