(The following article first appeared in the February 2, 1994 issue of the now-defunct alternative newsweekly, Downtown, when CNN was still controlled by Ted Turner.)
During the Reagan era, TBS/CNN’s then-chairman of the board, Ted Turner, was a friend of a [now-deceased] right-wing religious extremist named Jerry Falwell. As Contemporary American Business Leaders recalled, “Turner, like his friend Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority, viewed MTV as a moral corrupter of youth.” The same book also noted that, in support of Jerry Falwell’s right-wing social and cultural agenda, “Turner took on MTV, the music video cable channel, unveiling his `Night Track’ in June 1983, which was to play a `pop-40 light’ series of videos.”
It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks also noted that in 1981 “Turner…found himself aligned with the Reverend Jerry Falwell…in demanding that the three major networks return to more wholesome programming like Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best." The same book also revealed that on June 19, 1982 Turner spoke to a right-wing Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Philadelphia and “after urging the veterans to join him in his quest for a congressional investigation of network television” Turner “gracefully accepted the VFW’s annual `News Media Award’ as the man who had done the most that year to promote `traditional American values.’”
Turner was also a friend of the ultra-right North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms during the Reagan era and on June 27, 1984 Turner gave “a rousing speech before Washington’s National Conservative Foundation” in which “he vowed he would soon take over one of the Big Three” TV networks, according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks. Although Turner’s media conglomerate had lost $77 million on its CNN TV subsidiary operation during the previous five years, “in 1985 Turner decided to take over CBS” after “his friends Jerry Falwell and Senator Jesse Helms had announced their intention to take over the network to end its `liberal bias'” according to Contemporary American Business Leaders.
Hard Right: The Rise of Jesse Helms by Ernest Ferguson also revealed in 1986 that “In a deposition before CBS attorneys, Turner admitted that he had held extensive discussions with Helms and the ultra-right FIM [Fairness In Media] about how they might cooperate in their efforts.” Turner also apparently told a Rotarian luncheon ground in the 1980s that “I think we’d be in a hell of a mess…if we didn’t have a Right Wing.”
But Turner’s 1985 bid to take over CBS was unsuccessful because Turner did not yet have enough money in his bank account to acquire CBS at that time. In response to Turner’s attempt to take over CBS, “CBS filed actions in both New York State and federal courts, accusing TBS of a litany of…security violations, as well as conspiracy to defraud…” according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks.
Next: CNN’s Historic MGM/United Artists Connection