‘WE AGREE ON ALMOST EVERYTHING’ : TURNER, VALENTI: A NEW SOLIDARITY
Proclaiming “I’m a member of the club now,” Ted Turner, the new owner of MGM, shared the spotlight here Tuesday with Motion Picture Assn. of America President Jack Valenti. Of his current relationship with his one-time adversary, he said, “We agree on almost everything.”
Turner and Valenti were making an unusual appearance together before a luncheon audience of 1,000 members of the International Radio and Television Society.
As a maverick pioneer in cable television, Turner, chairman of Turner Broadcasting, has in the past found himself on opposing sides of the entertainment industry from Valenti, who has long argued that cable owners and operators should pay market prices for the programs they recycle. Turner has argued the contrary.
Now, however, with the recently completed takeover of MPAA-member film studio MGM, Turner finds himself on Valenti’s side of the industry.
Valenti took the opportunity Tuesday to chide Turner for his past practices as a cable operator: “No one should use our property without proper authorization and compensation,” said Valenti, referring to what he termed “film piracy” on the part of cable owners and operators. “Ted Turner, as MGM owner, should now see it that way.”
“I probably haven’t paid as much in the past as I should have (for Hollywood films shown on his Atlanta-based superstation WTBS),” Turner responded. “But now I’ve paid dearly!"--a reference to the price of more than $1 billion he paid for MGM.
The usually outspoken Turner also did not strongly challenge Valenti’s assertion that “too much power lies in the hands of too few cable owners and operators.”
Valenti, in turn, praised Turner’s latest project, an athletic competition to be held in the Soviet Union and to be broadcast by Turner’s WTBS this summer, known as the Goodwill Games.
“He’s had a lot better luck with the Russians than I’ve had,” said Valenti, noting that the MPAA has negotiated the sale of only six Hollywood films to the Soviet Union in the past three years. The former adviser to President Lyndon Johnson said of the upcoming summer games: “Any kind of U.S.-Soviet cultural exchange is better than hurling insults or missiles at one another and, in the end, I think these will provide a better vehicle and a more valuable asset than politics.”
Turner, who recently has sounded more conciliatory and more concerned with global politics than in the past, said the aim of the summer games is better U.S.-Soviet relations. He said he hoped that this, in turn, would lead to world disarmament.