Editorial: Party Conventions Invite More Coverage

Aug 24, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Permit us to borrow a line from a cable news channel promo running right now: Every four years, a lifetime of training culminates in a contest that determines champions and also-rans—and we aren’t talking about the Olympics.
The subject, of course, is the election we find ourselves in the midst of, with the Democratic National Convention starting this week. Say what you will about the newsworthiness of the quadrennial party conventions that crown the nominees for the presidential races—the fact remains that the conventions are an elemental part of the political process. We think the broadcast networks should devote more prime-time air to covering the events.
As reported last week in TelevisionWeek’s exhaustive breakdown of network coverage plans, the major networks are devoting one hour of prime-time coverage to each night of the conventions. Compare that with the three hours nightly that PBS will provide. In our eyes, those numbers simply don’t add up.
At the heart of it, there really are only two reasons the commercial broadcast networks wouldn’t do more to fulfill their obligation to encourage participation in the political process: cost and the loss of potential revenue. Those financial considerations should pale next to the importance of creating an informed electorate.
Granted, there is no affirmative statutory duty obliging networks to broadcast a certain amount of public-interest programming about politics. And the conventions will be plentifully covered on cable networks, the Web and mobile media.
A look at the problems facing the country, however, might provide persuasive arguments for confronting Americans with more news from the convention on the broadcast networks.
Record energy and food prices, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, worsening relations with Russia, a losing battle against narcotics trafficking, environmental concerns like climate change and an education system in decline all could occupy hours of coverage during the convention.
Issue-oriented coverage set against the propaganda that each political party will try to foist on network news teams could wake up Americans to problems that urgently need to be addressed. Broadcasters would gain from presenting that kind of coverage as well, re-asserting the relevance of their news programs to a country that is drifting away from the network newscasts.
The schedules are set in stone for the events this year. We urge networks to take a braver stand next time when making programming decisions during the conventions. It may be a case of administering medicine viewers don’t necessarily want to take, but it’s the right thing for the country.

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