LONDON — Ted Turner romped into the U.K. Tuesday with both guns blazing and Jane Fonda in attendance, his first visit in years.
At a lunch at the venerable Reform Club in London, Turner arrived brandishing a card indicating he had almost lost his voice and was saving it up for his official talk.
When asked, however, whether the BBC’s current domestic and international news expansion would hurt his news net CNN, Turner broke into a smile and uttered the single word, “Murdoch,” implying it would have more impact on the News Corp.-parented Sky News.
Murdoch-bashing also characterized a post-lunch Q&A, when Turner, with a remarkably recovered voice, likened the rival news tycoon to Hitler yet again (he apologized after drawing a similar comparison earlier this year) and added that Murdoch was “a disgrace to journalism.”
“No individual should have the amount of control” that Murdoch does in Britain through satcaster BSkyB and newspapers, Turner added.
The reason for the Turner visit seems to have been to draw attention to CNN’s recent moves to regionalize its feeds, including adding four new bureaus worldwide, such as a second German bureau in Frankfurt.
Undoubtedly, however, the BBC launch Sunday of a 24-hour news service for the U.K., BBC News 24, also factors in. The channel will initially be carried by cable operators, and overnight on the terrestrial BBC1, when regular programming ends.
Analysts indeed believe that Sky News may have the most to lose from competition from the BBC in Britain, but the BBC is also a serious rival to CNN in Britain and elsewhere.
BBC Worldwide is currently available in 50 million homes in 187 countries.
Meanwhile, there are shakeups afoot in British terrestrial TV news, with Channel 5 announcing it is moving its flagship newscast from 8:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the same time as Channel 4 news goes to air.
C4 also plans to overhaul its newscast and has asked independent companies to tender new ideas for the program’s format. This would hit ITN, the TV news provider that has long supplied news to both C4 and the ITV network, should it lose its C4 contract in whole or in part.