First in daytime, prime-time and evening news ratings last season, CBS kicked off its annual affiliates convention here Tuesday with a suggestion on what to do about Ted Turner.
Station officials should put aside all thoughts about Turner and his proposed hostile takeover of CBS and “get on with business as usual,” affiliate Board Chairman Joseph A. Carriere urged executives of 200 CBS-affiliated stations.
His comment was clearly aimed at ending affiliate talk--or, at the least, soothing affiliate worries--about the Atlanta cable-TV maestro’s much-publicized efforts to acquire CBS. It drew scattered applause from about 700 station executives who heard Carriere’s convention-opening remarks at the Masonic Auditorium here.
Carriere, president of Caprock Telecasting Inc. of Rosewell, N.M., began by reading a letter that his board sent CBS Board Chairman Thomas H. Wyman last month before the CBS stockholders’ meeting in Chicago.
The letter said that Turner’s proposed takeover “would risk serious damage to CBS’ competitive position and to CBS’ well-deserved reputation for public service.”
Carriere’s later suggestion that the Turner matter be put “out of the way” during the convention was seconded, predictably, by CBS Broadcast Group Executive Vice President Thomas H. Leahy.
Leahy indirectly noted that CBS is fighting Turner on various legal and federal regulatory fronts, and added: “Clearly, the issue is in good hands, and we’re all confident that it will be successfully resolved.”
And with that, the convention’s business got under way, with predictions from CBS Entertainment President Bud Grant that the network’s six-year, prime-time “winning streak will remain unbroken” next season.
The tone of Tuesday’s opening session--where affiliates heard presentations on daytime, prime-time and children’s programming--was quietly confident, low-key and often dull. It lacked the glitter and show-biz flash that marked the ABC and NBC affiliate conventions of the past two weeks.
A tad more excitement is expected today, when Dan Rather--who is anchoring the “CBS Evening News” from Nob Hill’s venerable Fairmont Hotel during the two-day convention--is scheduled to address the gathering briefly.
Also scheduled to appear then, according to CBS, are Phyllis George and Bill Kurtis, co-anchors of the third-place “CBS Morning News.”
(It is not known if George will discuss her much-criticized gaffe of last week, when, while interviewing Cathleen Crowell Webb and Gary Dotson, principals in Chicago’s celebrated rape recant case, she asked them if they’d hug each other. They declined.)
On Monday, the day before CBS executives began their state-of-the-network speeches, station officials held a closed-door meeting to discuss their network. No CBS representatives were there.
As expected, Turner’s proposed takeover of CBS came up, but “there wasn’t any discussion” of his efforts, Carriere said after the meeting.
He said he simply “explained a few specifics” about the CBS affiliate board’s intention to soon file with the Federal Communications Commission a petition opposing Turner’s takeover attempts.
Carriere said that there is affiliate concern about Turner’s efforts. But he expressed doubt that the matter would weigh all that heavily on the minds of the CBS conventioneers, despite press speculation to the contrary.
“I don’t think so,” he said, and, as he told affiliates Tuesday, he emphasized his hope that during the convention the subject of Turner “would be put to one side so that we could get to the business at hand.”
James Lynagh, president of Multimedia Broadcasting, said Monday that talk about Turner doubtless would rattle around at informal gatherings of station officials during the convention.
But most of the talk probably will concern what a Turner-run CBS would look like, not whether the flamboyant Atlanta businessman actually could take over the network, he said.
Lynagh, whose Cincinnati-based company owns two CBS and two NBC affiliates, is head of the NBC affiliates board.
He attended the Peacock Network’s convention last week in Los Angeles, where jubilation abounded because NBC, after nine years in the ratings celler, finally had moved up to No. 2 in prime-time ratings, with ABC slipping to third.
He grinned when asked if CBS affiliates with whom he has talked are worried that NBC will overtake first-place CBS in 1985-86.
“No, not really,” he said. But he predicted, quite safely, that CBS affiliates will want to be certain that their network “keeps an eye on” its hard-charging rival.
He diplomatically declined to say whether he thinks NBC will overtake CBS, which has been first in prime-time ratings for six consecutive seasons.
“I don’t want to speculate on who will win,” he said. He said that from his standpoint, it would be best if next season proved to be a tight three-way race, with “three strong, viable networks” and no single one running away with the ratings.