A video produced by Ted Turner which had been the stuff of legend for decades finally emerged in January 2015. It was produced to be the final video to be broadcast by CNN in the event of the “end of the world.”
When CNN was launched back in 1980, Ted Turner stated that the network would play the National Anthem once upon its launch, and “when the end of the world comes, we’ll play ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ before we sign off.” Apparently Turner meant it, as an actual tape was produced for this purpose.
CNN launched during the Cold War, and many people – including Turner – were concerned at the time that nuclear war was a real possibility.
Turner discussed the tape with The New Yorker back in 1988. He stated that the Armed Forces marching bands were assembled and filmed at the CNN headquarters. First they played the National Anthem, then, Turner stated, “I asked if they’d play ‘Nearer My God, to Thee’ to put on videotape just in case the world ever came to an end. That would be the last thing CNN played before we–before we signed off.”
Because CNN is a 24-hour news network, Turner noted, “We would only sign off once, and I knew what that would mean.”
“Nearer My God, to Thee” is a 19th century hymn that is perhaps most famous for being (allegedly) the last song played by the band on the Titanic before it sank. The song was featured in popular Titanic-based movies A Night to Remember (1958) and Titanic (1997).
Despite Turner’s apparent affirmation of the tape, the fact that no one had seen the video led some to wonder if the cable television mogul was simply speaking in figurative terms, and no such tape existed.
Michael Ballaban, a writer for the website Jalopnik – and who also worked as an intern at CNN in 2009 – located the legendary tape and posted it online in January 2015. The tape, entitled “Turner Doomsday Video,” was stored in an archive with the restriction “HFR (hold for release) till end of the world confirmed.”
The video, in standard definition and boxy 4:3 ratio, fades to black at the one minute mark. Turner has stated, “I can’t watch this without getting tears in my eyes.”
Watch the video at Jalopnik.
A video was produced in 1980 by Ted Turner to be shown on CNN in the event of the end of the world. The one-minute video shows the Armed Forces marching bands playing the hymn, “Nearer My God, to Thee.”
Updated January 17, 2016
Originally published January 2015