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Turner Blasts 'Sleazy' TV Programming

Media: While praising CNN and TNT network, the Time Warner vice chairman assails plans for New Line Cinema's release of the film 'Crash.'


NEW YORK — Admitting what he said were the shortcomings of his own TV networks, Ted Turner exhorted an audience of broadcasters to "strive for excellence" in programming, not just ratings and profits.

"There's too much sleazy, stupid, violent stuff on television--that's why we're getting the V-chip," Turner told an an audience that included CBS President Peter Lund, Court TV President Stephen Brill and CBS anchorman Dan Rather.

Delivering a lecture at the Museum of Television and Radio on Monday, Turner, vice chairman of Time Warner, called television a "more powerful" force than education, religion or parental guidance in the lives of many young people. He urged industry executives, before they put a show on the air, to ask themselves whether they'd be "proud and happy" for their children to see it and whether they would want their parents to know they'd produced it.

Turner expressed pride in CNN and programming on the environment, the Civil War and other topics on his TNT entertainment network. But he criticized an upcoming theatrical film, Stephen Cronenberg's "Crash," being released in the United States by Time Warner's New Line Cinema.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 7, 1996 Home Edition Business Part D Page 3 Financial Desk 1 inches; 14 words Type of Material: Correction
David Cronenberg--An article in Tuesday's editions misspelled the name of the movie director.

"I personally was appalled and am appalled by it," Turner said of the film, which depicts people who are sexually aroused by car crashes and their victims. "The people with warped minds are going to love this movie--I worry about the first teens that try it."

Turner said New Line was releasing the film "because the decision was made above me," but he didn't elaborate on who might have the authority to overrule him.

Reached late Monday, Cronenberg, whose directing credits include "The Fly" and "Naked Lunch," said that Turner's concerns already had caused a five-month delay in the U.S. release of the film.

The movie was originally scheduled for release Oct. 4. A spokeswoman for Fine Line, the New Line division distributing the film, said Monday that it will be released in March.

Cronenberg said, "The people who overruled Turner" were Robert Shaye, New Line chairman, and Michael Lynne, the company's president.

"Turner's entitled to his reaction to the film," Cronenberg said. "But he was not the one who acquired it for distribution--New Line and Fine Line decided to take on the film. Turner was not supposed to be involved. To me this illustrates the potential danger of feisty, independent studios like New Line and Miramax used to being 'Disney-fied' and 'Turner-ized.' "

New Line executives declined to comment on how the decision was made to release the film, which will have an NC-17 rating. But a spokeswoman said: "The [change in distribution date] was made in response to the competitive marketplace. It had nothing to do with the content of the film."

In his lecture, Turner warned television executives that if they ignore concerns about programming quality, they will end up like tobacco executives in the increasingly difficult position of defending smoking.

"The way we have used television, it's like alcohol," he said. "One or two drinks before dinner won't hurt you. But if you drink a fifth a day, it will kill you."

Turner singled out Rupert Murdoch for particular criticism. "He is exactly the kind of person I'm talking about who puts profits and power absolutely first, second and third."

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