State Dept. panel makes disappointment public
WASHINGTON — A U.S. State Dept. advisory commission on public diplomacy caught the entertainment biz off guard Wednesday, concluding that an overseas PSA produced by the Hollywood 9/11 committee won’t be effective in swaying public opinion among Muslims.
“We’re not in the ad business. A two-minute ad is not something that we think is really important,” said Harold C. Pachios, topper of the commission, who repeatedly referred to public service announcements as “ads” during a morning briefing at Foggy Bottom.
Pachios said Hollywood’s war effort should instead be focused on producing documentaries, along the lines of Washington-friendly docs produced during World War II and in the 1960s.
Industry execs — as well as White House staffers — said they were stumped by Pachios’ remarks concerning Hollywood 9/11.
Vote of confidence
Bush staffers insisted they have no complaint with Hollywood 9/11, or with anything the committee has produced. Still, no one on either coast wanted to comment directly.
The latest flap underscored the precarious nature of the Washington-Hollywood bond.
Thus far, the only criticism of Hollywood 9/11 has come from within the biz, with some industryites complaining that the panel is too big to foster more creative approaches.
Hollywood 9/11 was called together last fall after a visit to Los Angeles by top White House adviser Karl Rove, whose office has stayed in close touch with entertainment execs about the various efforts, including the 90-second PSA referred to by Pachios.
Both the White House and Hollywood said content is never discussed.
The 90-second PSA released earlier this month was the brainchild of Hollywood 9/11’s international subcommittee, led by Sony Pictures Entertainment exec VP Hope Boonshaft. The spot, headlining 1984 Olympics hurdling champion Nawal el Moutawakel-Bennis, was filmed in Morocco by RSA, a production company headed up by Ridley and Tony Scott.
PSA, now available only in Arabic and English, is being carried on Intl. Channel Networks, which brings international fare to viewers in the U.S.
“Hollywood is proud of what we’ve done so far, and what we continue to do,” Motion Picture Assn. of America spokesman Rich Taylor said Wednesday.
MPAA prexy-CEO Jack Valenti leads Hollywood 9/11, whose major campaigns have included sending hundreds of movies to U.S. troops overseas, and producing PSAs for domestic and international auds. The committee has bowed a handful of PSAs and movie trailers Stateside.
Industry execs said it could prove difficult to come up with the time and resources to produce the sort of documentaries to which Pachios referred.
Pachios’ panel is charged with devising ways to better spread America’s message overseas, dispensing advice to both the White House and to State Dept. undersecretary of public diplomacy Charlotte Beers.
The remarks about Hollywood 9/11 were not part of the official report released Wednesday; that report called on President Bush to immediately issue a presidential mandate stating the importance of public diplomacy.
Also, the advisory commission said Washington should do more to “engage and contract” with the entertainment biz, public relations experts and ad agencies for “insights, creative concepts and critical judgment.”