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THE '80s A Special Report : TASTE MAKERS : Presenting the big players and major ideas that--for better or worse--shaped the 1980s. This is Calendar's fifth annual Taste Makers report, expanded this time to cover the last 10 years in the following categories: Show Business Execs, Film Producers, Film Directors and Writers, Stage, TV, Music, Dance, Pop Music, Jazz, Comedy, Radio, Art and Restaurants. : SHOW BUSINESS EXECUTIVES : TED TURNER

December 24, 1989|RICK DU BROW

Ted Turner was the David of the 1980s who floored the Goliaths of network television.

His Cable News Network was launched on June 1, 1980, and, with breathtaking efficiency, it soon became the nation's network of record for news-watchers.

CNN was the greatest achievement of Turner's career, an Atlanta-based operation of straightforward, around-the-clock news, with low-profile anchors and reporters who just gave the facts, with a minimum of personal publicity.

The format was a pointed contrast to anchor-dominated ABC, CBS and NBC.

And CNN's unadorned, complete reports coincided with the Big Three's budget cutbacks for news, their virtual abandoning of documentaries and their increasing glitz to hold defecting viewers.

Turner, a brash, funny, wheeling-dealing entrepreneur, hardly seemed the person to set up a distinguished news organization. But his instincts were on the money.

He barely concealed his contempt for the established networks, just as viewers were also tiring of their fare and turning to alternatives like cable. He even tried, vainly, to buy CBS.

By 1988, Turner had four cable channels in operation. One was TBS, his Atlanta superstation that featured movies and sports. CNN was another. Headline News was a third Turner channel--a short-form version of CNN that offered half-hour newscasts around the clock.

And in 1989, Turner introduced another major channel, TNT. It stood for Turner Network Television, and it took further aim at the Big Three by offering vintage films, sports and original programming with big-name talent.

And, as if his forays in TV were not enough, Turner drew fire from many in the film community for his colorization of vintage films in the MGM/UA library that he acquired in a deal with Kirk Kerkorian.

The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.

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