LAS VEGAS: NAB Show 2008 officially got underway at Las Vegas on April 14 with David Rehr, President & CEO of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), unveiling aggressive plans for NAB and the role the organisation would play in the development of the US broadcasting industry. In his opening address, Rehr set the stage for a hot discussion on where the broadcasting industry was headed, adding that despite everything that was changing in the media landscape, the onus on where this industry would be, lay with the broadcasters. He urged the broadcasting fraternity to be confident and celebrate their creativity.
Well-known broadcaster Charles Osgood of CBS News’ ‘Sunday Morning’ and CBS Radio Network’s ‘The Osgood File’ took the dais next to accept NAB’s Distinguished Service Award. Accepting the Award, he said, “I am truly honoured to accept this Award, and now I would like to speak to you, broadcaster to broadcaster.” According to him, broadcasters were neither small nor new kids on the block – the key was that broadcasters were here, and they were the masters, not the boxes – be it TV or radio. He said, “We are the best in storytelling and then selling, and we make these boxes what they are. From where I see it, our future is bright, unless we short-sell ourselves. We just need to have faith in ourselves.”
The problem and the solution lay within, was what actor/director and screenplay writer Tim Robbins had to say. Robbins captured the audience’s attention from the word go, and though he had decided against delivering a speech that he had written, to allow a conversation with the session moderator, the audience ensured that the prepared speech was delivered. Robbins remained true to his self and was as vocal as ever about things he believed in, including the content aspect of television, where he pointed out some shortcomings created due media’s need to sensationalise.
Robbins candidly spoke on his experiences with the national media when he voiced his views against war during the US’ ‘war on terror’ period, and the manner in which he was called a ‘naïve dupe of the Left wing’. Robbins used sarcasm and humour in equal measure to get his point across and keep the audience engaged, and if the reaction in the hall was anything to go by, he had succeeded. Said Robbins, “NAB has asked me to speak on new media and distribution systems – I don’t know what that f***ing means, but I will still go ahead, and speak on something I know nothing about.”
Even though Robbins continued with his address in a lighter vein, he managed to bring out some significant points on the changes in the broadcasting mediums – radio and television – and the impact thereof, to draw a comparison on what the future could hold, and how it should be addressed. He took the audiences through the growth in radio, how the medium grew and changed with FM, news becoming a part of the medium, and the other developments that brought in structural and content changes in the medium. He went on to speak about the advent of TV around the same time, and how it became the primary form of revenue for most networks.
Speaking on the state of broadcasting today, Robbins pointed out that the important things suddenly were sex scandals, racist controversies and other diversities and differences of opinions that the media played up. He said that even if there was coverage and content done on real issues, for many in the audience, the attention stopped on “starlets getting off the cars without their panties”.
Robbins spoke on the changing media and the coming in of “Internets”. He said, “Just when we had a national playlist going on for radio, in comes satellite radio that is giving the listeners what they want to hear. Just when the national media has decided what the truth is going to be, in comes the internets, and YouTube. We really need to do something about them now.” Robbins played with the broadcasters and the content creators in the audiences and even suggested doing a sex scandal, or racist controversies against these new mediums!
On a more serious note, the Academy-winner actor continued, “The truth of the matter is that creativity and innovation cannot be taken too seriously. We are a divided nation and you guys, as broadcasters, have the power to take the nation away from that, and lift us into a more enlightened age. Some of you are trying against the odds of ratings and job securities, but we have to get up and say, enough is enough. You have to appeal to the better nature of our audiences than just speak to the corrupt sides of our former selves – we are much better than that.”
Even though, the US is close to the end of the analog age – February 17, 2009 is the official deadline for transition to the digital mode, as was mentioned by David Rehr earlier in the day – and there is a long wait before India gets there. Robbins’ address clearly shows that at least in some aspects, the content debates that Indian media faces, are as progressive or as regressive, as in the US media.