Intelligence Squared Seeks Oxford-Style TV Debates

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Amid callsfor different moderators and even no moderators for the upcoming televised presidential debates, one group is suggesting a complete format overhaul.

Intelligence Squared, which has been hosting monthly, Oxford-style YouTube debates for a decade, wants the televised debates between presidential candidates—which will be road-blocked on broadcast and cable nets—to follow the same format.

Saying the current televised debates “have been reduced to a string of ‘gotcha’ questions for candidates, which result in personal attacks, uninformative sound bites, rehearsed remarks and scripted rebuttals,” the petition calls for a series of hour-long debates on simple topics, say “Give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship” or “The United States intervenes abroad too often,” the group suggests. “Each candidate would get to make a lengthy (seven-minute) opening statement, then question each other. There would be rebuttal and then closing statements.”

Intelligence Squared, funded by philanthropist Robert Rosencrantz, says it has garnered 60,000 signatures on a petition calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to adopt Oxford rules.

Citing its own experience, the group points out it has conducted 120 debates in New York, Boston and Chicago since 2006, hosted by ABC News’ John Donvan. “Now more than ever our country needs real debates,” says Donvan in a YouTube video promoting the Oxford approach.

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.