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IFC Goes Political With Docu-Makers

Dec 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Moving beyond movies, IFC plans to cover the 2008 presidential election.
IFC has hired documentary filmmakers Will Rabbe and Sarah Scully to provide weekly reports and a series of specials on the political process for the television network, along with frequent updates on the Web.
“We see this as a mandate to expand the brand to become the voice of independent culture and politics, music, fashion,” said Evan Shapiro, general manager of IFC. “These are things that our audience loves. They do come to us for this type of stuff.”
Mr. Shapiro said the network’s internal research said viewers like when IFC airs political programming, such as documentary “The War Room” and docudrama “Weapons of Mass Distraction.”
While IFC does not air commercials, much of its programming is sponsored, and the network is likely to try to find a sponsor for its political coverage.
IFC plans to air 3-minute weekly news updates Tuesdays at 9 p.m. The network also plans to air five news specials during 2008 that will run in prime time. The first, in February, will focus on New York’s mega-primary. In August and September, specials will focus on the conventions and November will look at Election Day coverage and results.
IFC calls its independent-minded effort “Election Coverage for the Rest of Us.” Instead of focusing on the red states versus the blue states, Mr. Shapiro said, the channel’s coverage is aimed at all the “purple people” in the middle.
“You look at what the mainstream news outlets tend to do, they seem to want to stoke this bitter partisan divide because it’s good TV,” he said. “But we think better TV is giving the opportunity for the vast majority of the country to understand the process a little bit better.”
A self-described political junkie, Mr. Shapiro said he can no longer watch the political coverage on the traditional news networks.
“It’s screaming heads and it’s angry,” he said. “This is about adding to the conversation in a positive way.”
In its initial effort, IFC was able to land face time with top political players, including several candidates as they campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire.
IFC is gearing up its coverage at a time when Comedy Central’s news satire shows are off the air because of the Writers Guild of America strike.
The decision to launch IFC’s election coverage was made before the strike, but Mr. Shapiro said coverage by “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” will be missed because so many young viewers get their news there, creating a vacuum unlikely to be filled by Brit Hume or Wolf Blitzer.
“This is not funny, though. There may be humor in it, but no, we’re not doing fake news,” he said.
Mr. Shapiro, who left his offices near Madison Square Garden when the Republican National Convention was in town in 2004 for fear he’d be arrested for protesting, said the programming won’t reflect his political leanings.
Instead Mr. Rabbe and Ms. Scully are “neither left or right. They very much consider themselves students of the process, and that’s why we hired them,” he said.

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