"Where content comes to life" is the theme of the NAB Show, and boy, did Tim Robbins deliver some lively content during the opening keynote. Instead of merely congratulating the room full of several thousand broadcasters for doing their jobs well and offering a perfunctory challenge to continue keeping their communities informed, Robbins excoriated the news media for their obsession with salacious stories with dubious nutritional value, at the expense of major news stories about war and alleged Oval Office untruths, according to the actor, that have far greater impact on viewers’ lives.
Robbins wasn’t actually supposed to deliver the speech, and was instead to sit with TV critic/B&C columnist David Bianculli for a Q&A. Robbins said the speech would be available in some format, such as on the Web. As the two sat for a chat, Bianculli mentioned the speech and said it was insightful. When yells of "do the speech!" shot out from the crowd, Robbins obliged, and slid over to the podium.
Delivering a razor-sharp message slyly couched in humor, Robbins ripped the media who’d derided him for protesting the start of the Iraq war and branded him a traitor. He implored those in the room to rethink their programming decisions in favor of more substantial fare that rises above humankind’s shortcomings and the sex lives of the rich and famous, and to steer the country away from pervasive cynicsm and "our pornographic obsession with celebrity culture."
"I implore broadcasters to unite and focus on the positive. We are better than that," he said. "Help us reclaim our better nature."
As the speech crept past its allotted time, host Jack Sander, the retired Belo boss, loomed at the side of the podium. When Robbins wrapped it up, the room broke out in raucous applause and a standing ovation.