I’ve attended NAB for almost as many years as I’ve gone to CES, about 16. The keynote speeches have been yawners, especially in the last few years under the current administration I imagine they are about as exciting as they were in the 1950’s under the blacklisting scare. 80 years of keynotes and I bet they didn’t expect what we saw today. 1st of all it was surprising that Tim Robbins, an outspoken activist, was invited in the 1st place. Previous keynotes have been given by Ronald Reagan (who was attacked by an ice sculpture welding assailant) Dickie Parsons — formerly of the Dime bank, now with Chair of Time-Warner, and Barry Diller, creator of the Fox Network. Conservatives and not wanting to make waves in DC, the keynotes have always been skirting the real white elephant in the room, censorship. Especially in recent years.
Apparently no one told those booking the show this year that Tim Robbins wasn’t a safe choice. As he came out on stage, burly ushers in the room walked about demanding that all recording devices and cameras be turned off. Unprecedented in a room full of broadcast journalist.
Mr. Robbins started to tell us that his original speech had been taken away and that at some point we’d be able to read it on other, less censored media, at some future date. Then it was as if a light bulb went off in his head, throwing caution to the wind, he did his speech from memory.
Entitled: “The Power and Responsibility of Our Nation’s Broadcasters.” It was like watching the hybrid child of Jon Stewart and George Carlin. Sprinkled with those 7 words you can never say on regulated television, Robbins gave us a history of the media and then took all to task for not standing up to those currently in power who have been trying to silence us. Giving us such examples of Edward R. Murrow, Amos & Andy, even down to the audacity of CTW to think that parents would allow their pre-school age children to actually start learning by watching the “box”.
Each visual was followed by applause and in his final words, reminding us that we are on the brink of a new world and have the chance to change history as we know it, he threw down the velvet gauntlet, ““We are at an abyss as a country and as an industry. … And you, the broadcasters of this great nation have a tremendous power… to turn this country away from cynicism … away from the hatred and the divisive dialog that has rendered such a corrosive affect on our body politic.” I think that Mr. Murrow would be smiling right now.
Even though the FCC goons ordered the cameras off, there were still some small hand held devices that could capture the sounds of the beads of sweat that rolled off the NAB official’s brow, and captured the moment.