Must-See TV, and More of It

Almost 50 million people have watched the first two presidential candidate debates. That’s not exactly a Super Bowl-like number, but in a world of fractured media, getting that many people to watch politicians discussing actual issues that could affect us all for generations — OK, as well as what a brilliant and successful businessman one of them professes to be — is impressive.

Say what you will about Donald Trump, he has made politics into a compelling spectator sport.

I have been a debate junkie since college, when I watched President Ford and Jimmy Carter live from the cheap seats in William & Mary Hall, but the “what will they say next” nature of this political season has extended the audience beyond political junkies.

That’s why I am rooting for the Democratic National Committee to add some more candidate debates to the schedule.

Last week, when pressed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Hillary Clinton said the decision was not hers to make but that she would be willing to expand the lineup. Given the ratings and ad-sales potential for debates — CNN expanded its GOP main event debate to three hours last week — civic-mindedness would also be good business.

The ball, as CNN pointed out, is in the DNC’s court. Some have suggested the party is limiting the debates to favor Clinton. Not limiting them favors the rest of us, and would put that criticism to rest.

What I would also like to see is similar TV-network (and viewer) interest in a couple of candidate forums at Drake University. Those are the “Brown and Black” forums that will give candidates of both parties a chance to talk specifically about minority issues.

A Drake spokesperson had no comment on what the TV-related plans for those are, but given the rhetoric around immigration and the current state of race relations in this country, it is not debatable that the candidates should show up and that it should be as widely available as possible.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.