When NAB Convention planners got a look at the keynote speech that actor/director Tim Robbins planned to deliver yesterday, they apparently got nervous and suggested that he instead take part in a one-on-one interview by a veteran journalist. Robbins agreed, but urged on by audience applause, Robbins shifted gears again delivered his original speech – one that could fairly be called a left-wing diatribe, but also funny and, at times, not suitable for broadcast without a few bleeps.
In his tongue-in-cheek address, Robbins apologized to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other talk radio hosts for having been so wrong about the Iraq war. With hindsight, Robbins said he can now see that American troops were welcomed with open arms in Iraq, democracy has flourished in the Middle East and the US is enjoying a robust economy. “I was a left-wing dupe of appeasement. How wrong I was,” he said.
Robbins noted that the NAB Convention schedule said he would be talking about “the changing face of entertainment and how new distribution and content creation opportunities will impact Hollywood and other industries,” but “I don’t know what the fuck that means,” so he talked about what he does care about.
Delivering his own unique history of broadcasting, Robbins recalled how Edward R. Murrow ended his war-time broadcasts from London with “Good night and good luck,” and added that he also used the less remembered, “Die you Nazi cocksuckers.” It was definitely a speech that would not pass muster with the FCC if broadcast.
But Robbins didn’t have much liking for the FCC anyway, attacking both Democrat and Republican administrations for media deregulation. He joked that the new media outlets now available to consumers threaten to undo all of the “good work” of consolidation and deregulation. “Just when we were getting close to a national playlist for our music,” these new outlets have given consumers choice he said. And as much as he joked throughout the presentation, it was clear that Robbins is not happy with the state of US broadcasting. “We are at an abyss as an industry and a country,” he said in a somber wrap-up.
RBR/TVBR observation: No, we don’t agree with a lot of what Tim Robbins had to say. So what? We don’t agree with everything that Rush or Sean have to say either – and we also enjoy hearing what’s on their minds. We doubt that Tim Robbins really understands the ramifications of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. He’s quite blinded by his own biases in claiming that there is a lack of diverse viewpoints presented today by US broadcasters. But so be it. Let him speak and let the audience judge.