Robert Edward Turner, III / b. 1938 / Ohio, USA / Businessman, Entrepreneur, Television Producer, Founder of Cable News Network (CNN) and the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS)
Q: Now one of the messages you’ve been talking about is that you don’t have to be a billionaire to be involved. But obviously, there are people with a great deal less in the way of means than you and the Gates family.
A: Oh, you can do it by dedicating time to help a child who’s an orphan and give him some adult supervision and friendship.Interview with Neal Conan, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR, September 20, 2010; accessible at npr.org.
A: I think one individual storm can’t be caused by global warming]. But I think that the increasing number of hurricanes and the intensity of the hurricanes—which have about doubled, apparently, over the past 20 years, from the scientific papers that I have read—that the overall trend is caused partially by global warming.
Q: The word “partially” is significant, because we have looked at some of the hurricanes that occurred in the early part of the 1900s. [In 1900] Galveston had a Category 4, 8,000 people dead; 1928 in southeastern Florida, category 4, 2,500 people dead; Florida Keys, a Category 5 in 1935. There were about 10 of them, which were very significant, 3, 4, and 5’s, in the early 1900s. And that’s before this phenomenon of global warming came up, because all—there are skeptics out there who say global warming has nothing to do with this.
A: Well, global warming sure has a lot to do with the glaciers melting and a lot of other things.
But I think individual storms are like individual weather systems. They are all different. They are all different. And, remember, one reason why those casualties were so great in the early 1900s is, we didn’t have nearly as good a communication system. In the Galveston hurricane, I don’t think the people were told to evacuate, like they were in New Orleans [which had just been devasted by Hurricane Katrina]. If they hadn’t evacuated—most of the people, 90 percent, evacuated. If they hadn’t, the death toll would have been much, much higher.Interview with Wolf Blitzer, “The Situation Room,” CNN, September 19, 2005; accessible at cnn.com.
Low-Tech Solution in the Developing World
Q: You’re going to be talking tomorrow, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, about new cook stoves.
A: Right, we are. The cook stoves that are being used that have fossil fuel as the heating element, when they’re used indoors, as they are in many places, poison the air just like they do poison the air, the atmosphere.
And then we’re going to try to get cleaner cook stoves in the developing world that won’t kill and harm the people that are cooking dinner.
Q: So this is one of those relatively low-technology improvements like malarial . . .
A: That’s right. Twice as many people die, in the world every year, from cook-stove pollution as they do from malaria.
Q: And malaria netting has also been, again, relatively inexpensive and relatively very effective.
A: Absolutely. It’s just been a great development.
Q: And how many cook stoves do you hope to get out into the world next year, new ones?
A: As many as we can.Interview with Neal Conan, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR, September 20, 2010; accessible at npr.org.
I talked with quite a few of the North Korean leaders and South Korean leaders, too, and spent really the most time with the head negotiator for North Korea. And I was really over there to try and persuade North and South Korea to make the DMZ into an international peace park when they sign a peace treaty, which I anticipate will be fairly soon, now that we have these six-party talks—we have agreement there.
But I had a great time. I am absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are absolutely sincere. There’s really no reason—no reason for them to cheat or do anything to violate this very forward agreement. I mean, I think we can put the North Korea and East Asia problems behind us and concentrate on Iran and Iraq, where we still have some ongoing difficulties.Interview with Wolf Blitzer, “The Situation Room,” CNN, September 19, 2005; accessible at cnn.com.
. . . in the Bible, it says you are supposed to forgive seven times 70 or something like that. But just because, you know—I mean, in 1940, the Germans were our enemies; for the last 50 years, they’ve been our allies. Same with the—the Russians were our enemies before ’91, when the Cold War ended.Interview with Wolf Blitzer, “The Situation Room,” CNN, September 19, 2005; accessible at cnn.com.
Whether you’re talking about a person or a country, it’s okay to be rich and it’s okay to be powerful, just as long as you’re humble and cooperative. But if you combine being rich and powerful with being arrogant and uncooperative, people won’t cut you much slack.Ted Turner, Call Me Ted (2008).
Turner on Turner
It was now the fall of 1956, and nine years after entering Georgia Military Academy as a scrawny “Yankee” from Ohio, I was now considered a “southerner,” enrolling at one of the North’s most elite institutions.Ted Turner, Call Me Ted (2008).
During my first several days there I really did feel like a fish out of water. After years of following a military dress code I wasn’t even sure what to wear. The one place I felt like I fit in was out on a boat and, fortunately, trials for the freshman sailing team began right away.Ted Turner, Call Me Ted (2008).
. . . I just kept up with what was going on technologically, and took advantage of the new equipment and new ways of doing things from the very beginning. In business or in life or in military engagements, which I’d studied a lot—you know that old saying, “get there firstest with the mostest,” and so forth—and that’s what I tried to do in business, and I did, because the record speaks for itself. I started with virtually nothing. In 1970, which was my first year in the television business, we had 35 employees at the station in Atlanta and we did $600,000 in business—and 35 employees. And when I merged with Time Warner in 1995, which was 25 years later, we had 12,000 employees and we did two and half billion dollars, and instead of losing a million dollars, which we did the first year, we made close to 250 million dollars’ profit. And that was in 25 years.Interview, Academy of Achievement, October 20, 2007; accessible at youtube.com.
It was probably crazy. To take a local station, put it on the satellite—and there were regulations against it. But they changed the regulations. And I was doing some—I started lobbying. A lot of the battles that we fought in the television business were fought to a large degree in Washington against the networks, the broadcasters, against the motion picture studios, against the sports leagues, that didn’t want us to take our little station and take the programming and run it all over the country, and basically create a national network that was based on local programming. But we were able to convince Congress that it would be good for business, because it would create competition to the three networks where there was none before.Interview, Academy of Achievement, October 20, 2007; accessible at youtube.com.
It was okay for people to write negative things about me just as long as they spelled my name right.Ted Turner, Call Me Ted (2008).
If I only had a little humility, I’d be perfect.Reported in “At Long Last, He’s Citizen Ted,” Forbes magazine, January 30, 2003; accessible at forbes.com.
Re: Turner’s definition of “success” in philanthropy:
Well, a success for me just to see the world continue to make progress on the critical issues. The ones that concern me the most are getting rid of nuclear weapons and getting a handle on our energy policy and a strong climate change program.
But I’m interested in everything. I’m interested in hunger. A billion people go to bed hungry every night. That’s intolerable. I’m on the committee to eliminate poverty or alleviate it, the Millennium Development Goals, and so I’m involved with it from a lot of different angles.Interview with Neal Conan, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR, September 20, 2010; accessible at npr.org.
Re: Turner’s creation of the $1 billion-endowed United Nations Foundation:
Q: A billion dollars is a lot of money. Thirteen years later, do you think you got your money’s worth?
A: Well, it’s hard to tell exactly. It’s gone into so many different projects, and different aspects. But I’m very happy with it. Yes, I am.
Q: And you could have chosen to give it to one institution. You could have set up a foundation to target one particular issue that you were passionate about. Why did you decide to give it to the UN?
A: Well, because the UN deals with all the problems that we have, from nuclear weapons and refugees and famine and all the other problems, and I figure we’ve got to handle all the problems if we’re going to survive—global climate change.
Q: And this is, you decided this was the best way, the broad-spectrum approach, if you will?
Q: Well, at the time, the United States was two years behind in their dues to the UN. They owed them about a billion dollars, and my first idea was to give the money directly to the UN because they needed the money. They couldn’t pay their peacekeepers because the US, who had agreed to pay, just wasn’t paying.Interview with Neal Conan, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR, September 20, 2010; accessible at npr.org.
Re: United Nations’ integrity:
Well, you know, I’ve worked with the United Nations almost every day in some way or another, and I don’t see that at all. I think that they’re aboveboard and up and up. And, you know, there was a little problem with, in the Oil for Food Program, a couple – well, four, five years ago. But that’s the only impropriety that I’m aware of in a number of years.
The guys and girls that work over at the U.N. are really, for the most part, really care about what they’re doing, and they really work hard for their money.Interview with Neal Conan, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR, September 20, 2010; accessible at npr.org.
United States’ Role in the World
. . . you know, we have a long background of being an isolationist country and standing on our own and staying out of—or trying to stay out of—the wars in the rest of the world, which I think was good when we were a small country.
But we’re a superpower now, and we have to take our responsibility in the world, seriously, because if we don’t do it, nobody else can.Interview with Neal Conan, “Talk of the Nation,” NPR, September 20, 2010; accessible at npr.org.