‘I could be doing more!’ says the media giant.
Ted Turner’s Superstation TBS marked the start of basic cable, and he pioneered made-for-basic-cable programming. His TBS-Atlanta Braves synergy rewrote the rules of sports broadcasting. His CNN was the first 24-hour news channel, which made TV history in 1991 by broadcasting from behind enemy lines in Iraq. That might seem enough for one lifetime, but Sept. 18 also marks the 15th anniversary of his $1 billion pledge to the U.N. Turner sat down on the porch of his Bozeman, Mont., ranch to talk with Tim Gray about what the U.N. Foundation has done since then, about showbiz — and about the future of the planet.
Tim Gray: With your 1997 pledge, you put philanthropy on a huge scale.
Ted Turner: That’s where it belongs. I could give $10 for a bed net and be doing some good. But at the Waldorf-Astoria, with people from around the world, it needed to be a big gift. It had to be an eye-opener.
TG: You gave away one-third of your personal assets. Is that a benchmark for others?
TT: It depends on your circumstances and what you want to give. It’s an individual decision.
TG: Many people in showbiz write checks, but they could be doing more.
TT: Everybody could be doing more! Nobody’s doing enough. I could be doing more!
TG: People in showbiz have a spotlight. Do they have a responsibility for content with a message, like your “Captain Planet” toon series?
TT: I didn’t feel like it was an obligation. I felt it was a privilege. I had all these cartoons (MGM, WB, Hanna-Barbera works acquired via library purchases) and I said of all these, there’s not a single one about the environment. There haven’t been many movies made about the environment. (The Turner cable stations) did a lot of environmental programming by Cousteau, National Geographic, and we did “The World of Audubon.” We had more environmental program than anybody.