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Group Pushes for Rights to Debate Footage

A coalition of groups from both sides of the political spectrum asked the presidential candidates to pledge to hold more Internet-friendly debates, including requiring media companies to release rights to video footage.

That would include ground rules that media companies make debate video freely available for sharing, blogging and posting.

"We therefore call upon both candidates to commit to a principle that whenever you debate publicly, the raw footage of that debate will be dedicated to the public domain. Those in charge of the video feed should be directed to make it free for anyone to use," the groups said in a letter to Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"The presidential debates are for the benefit of the public. Therefore, the right to speak about the debates ought to be ‘owned’ by the public, not controlled by the media," they argued.

The Open Debate Coalition also asked that for the Oct. 7 town-hall-meeting-style debate, Internet questions be "chosen," not simply "asked" by the public. That would remove "gatekeepers" who would not allow some questions to "bubble up" in past debates because they thought them too gimmicky or not sufficiently hard-hitting.

Even the CNN/YouTube debates during the primaries, which they called a "milestone" and included some pretty off-the-wall question formats -- remember the GOP Debate Song -- "put too much discretion in the hands of gatekeepers," they argued.

"This 'bubble-up' idea is the essence of the Internet as we know it," they wrote. "The best ideas rise to the top, and the wisdom of crowds prevails. We'd propose debate organizers utilize existing bubble-up voting technology and choose Internet questions from the top 25 that bubbled up. We ask you to instruct the Oct. 7 debate planners to use bubble-up technology in this fashion."

Among those signing the letter were craigslist founder Craig Newmark, David Kralik of Newt Gingrich's American Solutions, Eli Pariser of, Republican strategist Mandy Finn, Arianna Huffington and Josh Silver of Free Press.

ABC, CNN and NBC all agreed to release video rights, the group said.

CBS said it supports making raw debate footage available for repurposing online and elswehere.

That was according to a CBS spokeswoman, who was responding to the call by the Open Debate Coalition.

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.