One of the coolest stories I got from "Call Me Ted," Ted Turner's autobiography, was about his "Beg-a-thon."
He had launched some local television channels in the South with different kinds of programming than were common for the day. He focused primarily on classic movies when most channels were going for more prime time programming. Thus, his channels got quite popular with demographics of people who didn't want the perceived sex and sleaze in normal TV (tame by today's standards, but that's the way it goes...)
What he did was have a "Beg-A-Thon" on TV, where they live requests between shows to fund the studio and keep it going. They got on local figures - the mayor, policemen, civil servants, various workers, moms, and kids - to talk about how they liked the channel to make a pledge.
Since TV was new at the time and this channel was one of people's favorites, they actually raised the $25,000 he needed to survive!
Ted kept detailed records of everyone who donated, and once the channel was profitable three years later, he paid everyone back $4 for every $3 they donated.
I love this story - when you've tried everything normal, why not try something crazy before dying? And Ted created a win/win situation for the community - they got to keep receiving their favorite programming, the channel stayed in business, and he was eventually able to pay everyone back.
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.
Robert Edward “Ted” Turner III was born on November 19 1938 in Cincinnati, Ohio and was the oldest child of Ed and Florence Turner. When he was nine years old, Ed Turner moved the family to Savannah, Georgia where he had acquired an outdoor billboard company that was renamed The Turner Advertising Company. Discipline in the Turner household was very strict. At his father’s insistence, the young Turner was required to learn every aspect of the family business, from maintenance to accounting. With the family business prospering, Ed Turner rewarded his son with the gift of sailing when Ted was nine years old. Turner soon developed a passion for sailboat racing and by age eleven he was competing in Savannah’s junior regatta.
Still an ever demanding father, Turner at age twelve was sent to military schools in Georgia and Tennessee. In 1951 he was sent to the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In his first years there Turner loathed the school’s discipline code, yet he emerged as a leader amongst his classmates and helped his school to win the Tennessee debating championship. During the summers Turner continued to work in his father’s billboard business and by the end of his teens he had become an effective salesman. Initially Turner wanted to go to the Naval Academy but his father persuaded him to go to Brown University where he could study business. At Brown University Turner was vice president of the debating team and captain of the sailing team. The rebellious Turner studied the classics and was an avid reader of military history, to the disgust of his father. Although he excelled in his studies and extracurricular activities, Turner was soon expelled from Brown University for entertaining a female companion in his dormitory room which was against college regulations.
In late 1960 after a short stint with the Coast Guard, Turner returned to Georgia to work as a general manager of the Macon, Georgia branch of his father’s advertising business. In the wake of a troubling marriage and his sister’s death to illness, Turner immerged himself into his work and soon his father promoted him to assistant manager of Turner Advertising’s Atlanta branch. Fuelling this economic growth, the senior Turner took on large amounts of debt to buy out a competitor. With his health failing and the recent pressures of the merger bearing down on him, he committed suicide on March 5, 1963. At age 24 Turner inherited a struggling business that was quickly growing but heavily indebted. In order to return the company to a profitable enterprise, Turner immediately began working on the firm’s cash flows.
Turner worked endlessly, offering customers a discount for early payment which increased his cash on hand and allowed the company to expand its operations. In a few years Turner had reversed the company’s sagging fortunes and stabilized it to become the largest billboard company in the south east. However, Ted Turner soon recognized that his billboard customers were allocating larger shares of their advertising budgets to radio and television. He began looking for opportunities in the broadcast market and in the late 1960s Turner used profits from Turner Advertising Company to buy Southern radio stations.