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CNN Founder Cites Media Consolidation, Nuclear Threat and Climate Change

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LAS VEGAS ( -- Delivering the opening address at this year's TV programmers convention here, Ted Turner introduced himself as the "guy who was phased out of Time Warner," and then proceeded to cite media consolidation, the nuclear threat and climate change as the biggest issues facing society today.
Photo: AP
Ted Turner called for a 'little less Hollywood news and a little more hard news.'

Mr. Turner was the keynote speaker of the opening session of the National Association of Television Program Executives annual conference. The erstwhile media mogul, who now runs a chain of restaurants specializing in bison meat and a number of philanthropic efforts including the United Nations Foundation, accused big media corporations of maintaining cozy relations with government.

Less Hollywood, more news
"It's very disturbing when we're at war," he said. "Particularly when we have nuclear weapons which are not adequately safeguarded and could fall into the hands of terrorists and when we have global warming and climate change we need to be very well informed."

The founder of CNN said, "I think there should be a little less Hollywood news and a little more hard news. That would be good for our democracy."

He lamented that there was little opportunity for independent voices when "90% of the cable companies are owned by the broadcast networks."

When asked about his thoughts on the outgoing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Powell, Mr. Turner said: "He's a nice guy. I think he was too deregulatory but that's about all I have to say. I like his dad."

Ted's Montana Grill
During a short opening speech, Mr. Turner said he would answer questions but wouldn't be critical of his company, Time Warner, since he was still on the board. That elicited much laughter from the audience. He said that his ouster from Time Warner five years ago turned out for the best because he could devote more time to persuading rich people to fund his causes and establishing Ted's Montana Grill. "It's not as exciting as the bombing of Baghdad, but people gotta eat," he said.

Former CNN anchor Bernard Kalb, who conducted an onstage interview with Mr. Turner, asked him what he would say to Gerald Levin, the architect of the Time Warner merger with America Online, if they were to share a 15 minute sauna.

"I've never been one to hold grudges. If I could forgive the Russians for 50 years of the Cold War, I can forgive Gerry. I wish him well." He then said that voting for the merger was the single biggest mistake of his life.

Adolf Hitler
Commenting on his feelings about Fox News topping CNN in the ratings, Mr. Turner said being the most popular wasn't always important. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, though I'm not happy about it. Adolf Hitler was more popular in Germany than people who ran against him. Just because you are bigger doesn't mean to say you are right."

During the question-and-answer session with the audience, Mr. Turner was asked about his visions of the future of the media business. On the subject of TV broadcasts on mobile phones, he quipped, "You gotta have good glasses to see it. I like my TV screens a little bigger, personally." And on the subject of advertiser involvement in programming, he said he had no definitive position, that he sometimes it was appropriate and other times it wasn't.

No comment on GE merger
When asked to comment on reports last week that General Electric Co. and Time Warner might be discussing a merger, the Time Warner board member told, "I don't know. I shouldn't say anything about that."

As for his legacy, Mr. Turner said the only thing he knew was what he wanted on his headstone: "I have nothing more to say."

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