Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Those without cable or satellite have a fuzzy view of the presidential race

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Originally published on on Wed, 02/27/2008 – 9:37am

For those with cable or satellite TV, February 17, 2009 doesn’t mean a whole lot. For those who use rabbit ears to get television, the date in February is a significant deadline. February 17, 2009 marks the transition from analog to digital TV.

And if you do have cable or satellite, you probably think the transition isn’t significant, but to many Americans, their TV watching depends on it.

So what does this have to do with politics? We keep hearing that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have had 20 debates. But if you are one of those who don’t have cable or satellite, there haven’t been 20 debates. There has been – one? The only one that leaps to mind that was on broadcast TV was the Saturday night contest in New Hampshire on ABC.

For goodness sake, we had a writers’ strike, where networks were showing low-rated reruns. And we had a scenario where CBS and NBC both blew off Saturday night programming to cover a regular-season football game scheduled to air on the NFL Network. (ironically, CBS blew off “Good Night, and Good Luck” to show the game. Did CBS eventually reschedule that December broadcast?)

And yet the networks couldn’t show presidential primary debates. If they were worried about ratings, then all four major networks should have carried the debates at the same time, or traded off so each network would have carried an equal number of debates.

Saturday night programming is so devalued on the broadcast schedule that only FOX consistently runs first-run programming on Saturday Night (COPS, America’s Most Wanted). This fall, ABC’s Saturday night programming was literally college football games. So, since the networks devalue Saturday night so much, they could have had the debates on Saturday night and not “suffered” too much.

Despite what the corporate media would like to believe, the airwaves belong to us. They serve a purpose to a lot of Americans who vote. The millions of coupons the government is printing up for digital converters (so those with analog TVs can still watch TV after the conversion) proves over-the-air TV is still relevant.

Think about this when it comes to political coverage on TV: In Canada, you can watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the “Colbert Report” with an antenna on CTV, but you can’t watch those shows in the United States with an antenna.

One easy solution for broadcast TV is to stream the debates on a separate digital channel. For example, in Chicago, the NBC station (Channel 5) broadcasts its regular fare on 5-1. A weather channel airs on 5-2. If it had a third digital channel, the station could have run last night’s MSNBC debate on 5-3.

The right-wing element goes nuts over a brief exposure of a female nipple (e.g., Janet Jackson), yet there’s no protest over a lack of political debates on broadcast TV. If the right-wingers feel the airwaves need to be protected from a nipple, the left-wingers need to stand up to protected the airwaves from ignorance.


Written by democracysoup

February 27, 2008 at 9:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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