[opendtv] "My Beef With Big Media / How government protects big media--and shuts out upstarts like me."

  • From: Monty Solomon <monty@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 12:58:24 -0400

July/August 2004

My Beef With Big Media
How government protects big media--and shuts out upstarts like me.

By Ted Turner

In the late 1960s, when Turner Communications was a business of 
billboards and radio stations and I was spending much of my energy 
ocean racing, a UHF-TV station came up for sale in Atlanta. It was 
losing $50,000 a month and its programs were viewed by fewer than 5 
percent of the market.

I acquired it.

When I moved to buy a second station in Charlotte--this one worse 
than the first--my accountant quit in protest, and the company's 
board vetoed the deal. So I mortgaged my house and bought it myself. 
The Atlanta purchase turned into the Superstation; the Charlotte 
purchase--when I sold it 10 years later--gave me the capital to 
launch CNN.

Both purchases played a role in revolutionizing television. Both 
required a streak of independence and a taste for risk. And neither 
could happen today. In the current climate of consolidation, 
independent broadcasters simply don't survive for long. That's why we 
haven't seen a new generation of people like me or even Rupert 
Murdoch--independent television upstarts who challenge the big boys 
and force the whole industry to compete and change.

It's not that there aren't entrepreneurs eager to make their names 
and fortunes in broadcasting if given the chance. If nothing else, 
the 1990s dot-com boom showed that the spirit of entrepreneurship is 
alive and well in America, with plenty of investors willing to put 
real money into new media ventures. The difference is that Washington 
has changed the rules of the game. When I was getting into the 
television business, lawmakers and the Federal Communications 
Commission (FCC) took seriously the commission's mandate to promote 
diversity, localism, and competition in the media marketplace. They 
wanted to make sure that the big, established networks--CBS, ABC, 
NBC--wouldn't forever dominate what the American public could watch 
on TV. They wanted independent producers to thrive. They wanted more 
people to be able to own TV stations. They believed in the value of 

So when the FCC received a glut of applications for new television 
stations after World War II, the agency set aside dozens of channels 
on the new UHF spectrum so independents could get a foothold in 
television. That helped me get my start 35 years ago. Congress also 
passed a law in 1962 requiring that TVs be equipped to receive both 
UHF and VHF channels. That's how I was able to compete as a UHF 
station, although it was never easy. (I used to tell potential 
advertisers that our UHF viewers were smarter than the rest, because 
you had to be a genius just to figure out how to tune us in.) And in 
1972, the FCC ruled that cable TV operators could import distant 
signals. That's how we were able to beam our Atlanta station to homes 
throughout the South. Five years later, with the help of an RCA 
satellite, we were sending our signal across the nation, and the 
Superstation was born.

That was then.


You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways:

- Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at 

- By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
unsubscribe in the subject line.

Other related posts:

  • » [opendtv] "My Beef With Big Media / How government protects big media--and shuts out upstarts like me."