Turner rips Rupe as NCTA confab closes

King helps cable ace get digs in

ATLANTA — For the second year in a row, cablers closed their annual convention by giving Ted Turner a stage and cheering him on as he bashed News Corp. topper Rupert Murdoch.

CNN talkshow host Larry King opened 30 minutes of questions and answers with Turner by asking the Time Warner honcho if there was anything new in his relationship with Murdoch. “His wife left him,” said Turner. Murdoch announced last month that he and his wife Anna were planning to divorce.

Turner also dismissed King’s suggestion that Murdoch has led a successful life. “You have to define success,” said Turner, “Al Capone made a lot of money, but I can’t remember if his wife left him.”

With King acting as straight man, Turner continued his personal attack on Murdoch with the assertion that Murdoch has never given money away unless it is an effort “to control governments and further his own interests.” Turner has announced that he plans to give $1 billion to the United Nations during the next 10 years.

Turner also flatly refuted the notion that he is pondering retirement. “No,” said Turner, before turning to the audience and adding, “Not that I know of.” Later he said, “I have no plans for early retirement. They are going to have to carry me out on a slab kicking and screaming.”

Approximately 27,000 people attended National Cable Television Assn. annual convention, which ended Tuesday.

During the four-day show, cablers celebrated their extraordinary success during the last year — a year in which their programming continued to erode broadcasters’ audience share and industry stocks have regained favor on Wall Street.

The only note of controversy came Tuesday, when Tele-Communications Inc. chairman John Malone told reporters that he was not going to carry the HDTV format favored by CBS and NBC. Although TCI prexy Leo Hindery tried to downplay Malone’s remarks, congressional reaction was swift with House tele-communications subcommittee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) vowing to go to war with Malone if TCI refused to carry every HDTV format.