Barbs fly as Turner is lauded

As the Center for Communications honored Ted Turner with its Communications Award Monday, the Turner Broadcasting Chairman, along with News Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch and Tele-Communications Inc. chairman John Malone, took advantage of the forum to exchange jabs and rail against government regulations.

Malone kept his remarks anecdotal at the annual event, held at the Plaza Hotel. However, in a pre-presentation press conference, he warned that the new FCC-mandated rate rollback would stymie the launch of new cable networks, adding it would take $ 350 million away of TCI’s cash flow. However, he was quick to add that the new regs would not stall the rebuilding of TCI’s cable systems, still scheduled for completion in 1996.

In introducing Turner, Murdoch hailed him for his innovative competitive spirit and used that as a jumping-off point to lambaste the Federal Communications Commission for its new cable rate rollbacks.

In addition, Murdoch warned the FCC not to put into place regulations now under discussion to require broadcasters to use new digital technology to improve TV signals for high-definition TV. Instead, he lobbied for digital compression as a means to the same end, resulting in “four or even six broadcast channels — all with better picture quality than today.”

In accepting his award, Turner aimed some playful barbs at the News Corp. chairman. The two media titans have been fierce competitors in laying their respective foundations for global networks. According to Turner, Murdoch has been making it tough for both companies’ expansion in Asia with activity surrounding his recent acquisition of Star TV.

“Until (Murdoch) went to Hong Kong and talked about how he was going to overthrow all the despot governments, there weren’t any problems with satellite transmissions,” said Turner, referring to Star TV being banned in China. “I guess you learned your lesson. Give me a call next time and I’ll tell you what to say.”

Turner sounded his now-familiar call to arms. Discussing a recent trip to China, he talked about the pollution and population problems there and urged his news media colleagues to spend more time covering those issues. “Then at least if we all die in a polluted, burned-out world,” said Turner in closing, “at least we could say, ‘I told you so.’ “

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