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IDA Career Achievement Award 1996: Ted Turner

By IDA Editorial Staff

A white man with a mustache looks at the camera with a slight smile.

His name is synonymous with entrepreneurship, with global communica­tion and extending the availability of news into a realm never dreamed by the three broadcast networks. He is also responsible for preserving classic films, making them available to new audiences, in restored and contemporary versions. He is someone whose tireless dedication to exploring issues of the past and the present has opened exploding opportunities for documentarians throughout the world.

He is R.E. Turner, "Ted" to almost everyone. Born in Cincinnati, and a native of Georgia since the age of nine, he graduated from Brown University, where he was vice president of the Debating Union and commodore of the Yacht Club. In 1963, at the age of 25, he became president and chief operating officer of Turner Advertising Company. Seven years later, he acquired Channel 17, an Atlanta-based UHF television station and soon originated the "superstation" concept that brought the station's signal to cable systems nationwide via satellite. Then came the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, and the first in-depth, round­ the-clock, all-news television network, CNN. Headline News followed, along with CNN International, Turner Entertai n ment Company, TNT, SportSouth, the Cartoon Network, Castle Rock Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Turner Classic Movies, CNN-Radio, CNN-Airport News, CNN Interactive, CNNfn-the financial network, Turner Pictures, Turner Sports, World Championship Wrestling, and Turner Original Productions, the all-documentary unit of TBS.

In 1985, Turner originated the Goodwill Games. In partnership with the former Soviet Union, he inaugurated the quadrennial, multi-sport, international, world-class competition in July 1986, in Moscow, followed by Seattle in 1990, St. Petersburg, Russia (1994), and the New York City metropolitan area (1998).

Currently, Turner is chairman and a member of the board of directors of the National Cable Television Association, and a member of the board of directors of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the International Founders Council of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and the United Nations Business Council. He is also president of the Turner Foundation, the Turner family's private grant-making organization which focuses on population and the environment.

As an active environmentalist, Turner believes that saving the planet is everybody's business (a philosophy that can be seen in the recently announced "People Count" and TBS's Network Earth and CNN's Earth Matters). He has received numerous civic and industry awards and honors, including being named Time Magazine's 1991 Man of the Year. He is also known as a superior yachtsman, having won national and world sailing titles, including a successful defense of the 1977 America's Cup, the 1979 Fastnet Trophy and four Yachtsman of the Year awards. In October 1995, Turner accepted, on behalf of the team, the Atlanta Braves' first World Championship trophy. He is married to the former actress, community activist and businesswoman Jane Fonda.

For documentarians, Turner's vision and commitment is seen most clearly in Turner Original Productions' six-hour documentary series, The Native Americans, and the National Geographic Explorer, now in its tenth year. TBS currently has nearly 400 hours of nonfiction programming in development or production, with 150 hours of natural history programming every year. Nominations for the Academy Award ® and the Emmy® along with two Peabody Awards are a few of the recent recognitions of the programming empire chaired by R.E. Turner. The 1996 IDA Career Achievement Award joins in this recognition.


1995 Marcel Ophuls
1994 Albert Maysles
1993 Robert Drew
1992 Walter Cronkite
1991 Bill Moyers
1990 Frederick Wiseman
1989 Jacques-Yves Cousteau
1988 David L. Wolper
1987 Richard Leacock
1986 Fred W. Friendly
1985 Pare Lorentz