Abyss: What You Won’t Hear Without the Internet

tim-robbins.jpg Tim Robbins, famous actor, writer, director, and producer, was invited by the National Association of Broadcasters to give a talk. Then they turned off all the cameras. But they forgot to tell the audience to turn off their voice recorders:
Now some of you are concerned with that unrelenting pesky competition. You know, the new technologies; the Internets and satellite radio and television. The problem is there are too many people in this country that take the notion of creativity and invention too damn seriously. Just when one technology is centralized, conglomerated, monopolized, along come new technologies and delivery systems to threaten the good work born of deregulation. Just when we were getting close to a national playlist for our music, satellite technology is threatening to provide music that people actually want to hear. Just when we were close to a national news media, providing a general consensus on what the truth is, along comes the Internets that allow its users a choice on the kinds of news it watches. And the You Tube. My God we’ve got to stop them. Recently when we were about to enjoy our great national pastime of ‘tearing apart a presidential candidate with relentless repetition of ugly things his friend said’, You Tube provided the candidates reasoned response and millions watched and responded positively.

Well you here at NAB have the power to stop this dangerous technology. The question is, how? I respectfully suggest that you do what others have done when facing the competition of new technologies. Get compromising information on your enemy and expose them in a sex scandal. Or call them a racist, or better yet a traitor. That not only undermines your competitor, but provides the public with fantastic entertainment.

The Power and Responsibility of our Nation’s Broadcasters, By Tim Robbins, The following is my opening keynote speech for the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, which I delivered Monday night. 14 April 2008

He had a fine time lampooning that the news media do all the time. And then he got serious:
Of course you can do that. And no one in this current world would fault you for it. It is, after all, where we stand today. In all seriousness folks, let’s face it. We are at an abyss as a country and as an industry. And I know that saying we are at an abyss isn’t the stuff of keynote addresses but all sarcasm and irony and rude pithiness aside, we are at a critical juncture in this nation’s history. This is a nation divided and reeling from betrayal and economic hardships. And you, the broadcasters of this great nation have a tremendous power, and a tremendous potential to effect change. You have the power to turn this country away from cynicism. You have the power to turn this nation away from the hatred and the divisive dialogue that has rendered such a corrosive affect on our body politic. You can lift us up into a more enlightened age. Or you can hide behind that old adage; “I’m just a businessman, I provide what the audience wants.” Well, I’m here to tell you that we don’t need to look at the car crash. We don’t need to live off of the pain and humiliation of the unfortunate. We don’t need to celebrate our pornographic obsession with celebrity culture. We are better than that.

Imagine a new broadcasting industry aesthetic, that respecting the better nature of the American people, produces shows that promote strength instead of fear. That does not divide, but inspires, that does not promote hate, but unity, that will not tear the weak down, but build up their strength. Imagine a world of broadcasting where the American people are encouraged to reject despair and distrust. And when they turn their TVs and radios off at night and go to sleep they possess strength, and unity and compassion for those they disagree with. That’s not out of the question. You can make that happen. It will be difficult, and will fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and standard operational procedures. But do we have any choice? The road we are on is leading us to a corruption of our former selves. We are better than that. You can help us reclaim our better nature, our perfect union. It isn’t necessarily a matter of country before profit, or of patriotism and truth before personal comfort. There could be money to be made in appealing to our better selves. Wouldn’t that be great? And if there isn’t and we came out of it a little less rich but more unified and healthier as a nation wouldn’t that be something we could all be proud of?

This speech is all over specialty magazines on the net (many of which play up the words he used and try to ignore the content), and all over the blogs. It’s nowhere in the big news media.

Without the Internet, we never would have heard this speech. Without the Internet and net neutrality, we won’t hear anything but what the news media want us to hear.