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Ambitious Lineup For Turner Project

September 11, 1986|CLARKE TAYLOR

NEW YORK — In an apparent attempt to make television more relevant to the times, Ted Turner's Better World Society has embarked on its first full year of television production with a $1-million budget and at least six projects focusing on nuclear, population and environmental issues.

The society was established by the maverick broadcaster and cable operator last year with the stated purpose of fostering "better understanding of global issues."

"There are too few places on television for issue-oriented material, and in these times it's critical that the issues be discussed," producer Rachel Lyon said in outlining the upcoming television projects.

Over the last year, five productions were produced by Better World Society and aired on Turner's Cable News Network, his Atlanta-based superstation WTBS and, in the case of "The First 50 Years: Reflections on U.S.-Soviet Relations," on public television stations.

Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Jane Alexander and Leonard Nimoy were among the personalities enlisted to participate in the initial projects, which were funded by Turner, other individuals, private foundations and co-production deals with partners such as the BBC.

The new lineup is far more ambitious. Plans for the coming year, according to Lyon, are for as many as four projects on "ending the nuclear arms race"; a co-production with the international Planned Parenthood Federation on U.S. population policy in the Third World, and a program patterned after the Band Aid rock concert that would interweave music with information about hunger problems around the world.

In addition, Lyon said that eight segments of a 12-part documentary series on global environmental and development issues have been completed. She said this series alone has been budgeted at over $1 million, with the additional funds coming from co-production deals with seven countries. It's scheduled to air on CNN in the spring of 1987.

Lyon, a passionate-sounding producer of feature films (Lee Grant's "Tell Me a Riddle") and documentaries (the Emmy Award-winning "Men Who Molest"), frankly acknowledged "a personal point of view" that might be labeled liberal.

"But there is plenty of exposure to the other point of view," she said, citing the major network news programs and recent TV commercials endorsing the Reagan Administration-proposed "Star Wars" defense system.

Lyon said efforts would be made to distribute future Better World Society productions to "the widest possible audience" beyond Turner's own networks. "However, we're already reaching new audiences (on CNN and WTBS) . . . including people who usually drink beer and watch sports on Saturdays.

"Our purpose is to use the media to provide audiences with the opportunity to think and decide on the issues and what they are going to do about them."

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