Wednesday, January 2, 2008

ABC & Fox Bar Six Presidential Candidates From NH Debate

by The Dean of Cincinnati | January 2, 2008 at 05:58 pm | 61 views | add comment

Article by Justin Jeffre

ABC and Fox will shut out six Democratic and Republican candidates
from debates this weekend in New Hampshire. Democrats Joe Biden, Chris
Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel will be excluded from ABC’s
undemocratic debate on Saturday. Republicans Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter
will be excluded from a debate hosted by Fox on Sunday. But do these
self appointed gatekeepers have any business interfering with our
democratic process?

Though the most important part of the electoral process is to have a
deep discussion about the direction of our country, partisan
corporations are allowed to dictate which candidates are allowed to
have a voice and which don’t. It’s bad enough that these powerful
corporations benefit from our corrupt campaign finance system while
getting to use our public airwaves for free, but they are stifling this
important discussion and our democratic process.

(The FCC continues to push for more media consolidation despite the
public’s loud objections and fails to make broadcasters meet the
minimum requirements of the past. Most recently the FCC gave big media a big Christmas gift allowing
one corporation to own TV and radio stations as well as the daily paper
in a town. The FCC no longer requires equal airtime or that
broadcasters live up to their responsibility to inform our electorate
about all the candidates that the voters will see on the ballot.)

In 2006 WCPO gave free airtime during the gubernatorial debates to
Republican candidate Ken Blackwell and Democratic candidate Ted
Strickland while excluding Libertarian candidate Bill Peirce and Green
candidate Bob Fitrakis. Peirce and Fitrakis were excluded despite the
fact that they both met the requirements to be placed on the ballot in
a real Democratic process.

A large number of signatures from registered voters are required to be
placed on the ballot. A much smaller and usually undisclosed number of
people who may or may not be registered voters are called by private
corporations early in the campaign season and asked who they would
likely vote for if the election were held today. The public has no way
of knowing who was called, how they were selected and if they are in
fact registered voters at all. And why should this override a more
democratic process anyway?

The corporate media fails to cover candidates early in the campaign
season and then they use secretive and undemocratic polls as a basis
for excluding those that haven’t raised the kind of campaign
contributions needed to purchase big media buys. Candidates can travel
all around the state or nation and have town hall meetings and still
not reach a tenth of the number of people that watch televised debates.

Locally, Channel 12 recently gave some big money council candidates
free airtime by having them on their popular Sunday show “Newsmakers.”
They refused to give equal time to other candidates. Cumulus radio did
the same while other media outlets didn’t even bother to cover the race
at all. During the 2005 Mayoral race, I was told by a sales rep from
Fox that they could have me on their Sunday morning show, but that they
“usually only have on candidates that do advertising with them.” By
contrast, in France they have multiple parties and real debates. There
were 12 Presidential candidates and they were all given a half hour of
free airtime. Perhaps this is why France has a higher voter
participation rate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates acts as another filter and
will decide who can participate in the debates after the primaries are
over. This commission is really a private corporation that is run by
two corporate lobbyists. One is a corporate Democrat and the other is a
corporate Republican. In 1996 they were even allowed to exclude a
billionaire named Ross Perot that received about 19% of the vote in the
previous election despite the fact that he withdrew and then jumped
back into the race.

Instead of a vibrant debate from A to Z (in the nation that proclaims
itself a model of democracy to be imposed on the rest of the world), we
get a debate from A to B, or shall we say D to F. By excluding
candidates like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich the corporate media takes
important issues off of the table like ending the war in Iraq,
repealing or renegotiating NAFTA and the so called free trade
agreements, or reinstating our constitution and civil liberties.

These are important issues that the public supports and deserves to
hear a vibrant debate about, but these positions don’t fit within the
narrowly defined parameters of what is acceptable debate to the status
quo or rulers of this country. While these charades we refer to as
debates fail to be democratic or fully inform our electorate, they are
the best cure for insomnia. It’s time for the American people to wake
up and demand real media and election reform now or our nation will
continue to move in the direction of a third world dictatorship.