Posts about debates

Debates, freed

NBC and ABC have now joined CNN in freeing up the debates they air for our unrestricted use and remixing. Bravo. MoveOn heaps on the praise and after scolding them for not doing this I’ll now join in the heaping. Says MoveOn’s joint red-blue press release:

Today, a right-left alliance praised ABC and NBC for joining CNN in liberating presidential debate video – allowing footage to be legally shared, blogged, excerpted, and put on sites like YouTube.

ABC announced Sunday’s Republican debate footage would be “without restrictions on use” after airing live, joining CNN who earlier this year announced the same policy. NBC announced a similar policy, beginning with last night’s AFL-CIO Democratic debate – allowing any use of debate video if attributed to MSNBC, provided the primary intent is not commercial and that candidates don’t use NBC moderators in ads.

“ABC and NBC deserve praise for leveling the playing field–allowing everyday people to share key debate moments on blogs and YouTube just like the networks choose moments to show on the air,” said Adam Green, who leads media reform and Internet freedom campaigns for Civic Action. “It’s good for our democracy that TV networks are removing themselves as the sole deciders of which debate moments can have a life online.”

Mike Krempasky, co-founder of, said, “These networks are not only embracing new technology, but new communities. Their willingness to loosen the reins a bit will go a long way towards improving our politics as more and more people get involved.” . . .

CBS has not yet made a public statement about their policy, and does not have their first debate until December. Fox, which has hosted one Republican debate and is scheduled to host another in October, told USA Today that “it plans to treat the debates its airs like all its programs. In other words, it will not post the video for all to use.” [Fox told me that they would expect people would make fair use of their video – ed.]

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said today, “Democracy works best when citizens are active participants in the debates. I encourage all media organizations to think about what kinds of content they could make available for re-use to allow people to get involved.”

In truth, YouTube users — including the candidates themselves — were already making liberal copious use of debate footage and the networks weren’t trying to stop them. But now there is an open acknowledgment that these debates are ours and that we will add value and perspective as we share and remix them.

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

Guardian column: YouTube debate

My Guardian column this week is about the YouTube debates, bringing together some of what I’ve talked about here. (Nonregistration version here.) Snippet:

The two media did not mix well. CNN displayed the YouTube videos in small squares on a big screen shot by a big camera – reduced, finally, to postage stamps on our screens. It seemed the network was ashamed to show the videos full-screen because they would not look like real TV. But, of course, that’s just the point. They weren’t real TV. They were bits of conversation.

TV doesn’t know how to have a conversation. TV knows how to perform. The event’s moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, behaved almost apologetically about the intrusion of these real people, who speak without benefit of make-up. He interrupted the candidates constantly, allowing them shallow soundbites a fraction the length and depth of even a YouTube video.

So I wish we’d have the YouTube debate on YouTube and leave TV behind. A few of the candidates are beginning to answer voters’ questions and challenges directly, small-camera-to-small-camera. Thus they are opening up a dialogue between candidate and constituent that was not possible before the internet: a conversation in our new public square. That is how elections should be held, amid the citizens.

The GOP’s big internet mistake

The Republicans are, I believe, making a gigantic mistake in running away, scared, from the internet. They’re running away from voters — and their money.

The latest indication of their fear of the internet is their attempt to fink out on the YouTube/CNN Republican debate. The party line — as we see from Rush and others — is that YouTube is somehow biased. That’s absurd. That would be like the Democrats saying that mail is biased because the Republicans made the first, best use of it. If internet video is biased it is a damned bad sign for the right and mighty strange considering the leading work done in the medium by the conservatives in the UK, France, and Germany. Hugh Hewitt frets that listening to YouTube will open up Republicans to cheap shots. That’s merely convenient paranoia. They’re looking for excuses to stay away from this dance.

The Republicans are scared of the internet. They are scared of us.

Giuliani has, as this blog as pointed out frequently, run away from the internet and interacting with voters there at every opportunity: It shows in his pathetic internet fundraising. Patrick Ruffini, former Giuliani internet guy (we can see why that’s former) frets that the Republicans will be outraised by $100 million because of this attitude. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is sniffing snottily at the quality of the questions on YouTube… from citizens. John McCain has been stiff and scared in his videos. Sam Brownback has hardly made any videos and the ones he has made are as stiff as a Kansas silo. The entire party has left the internet to Ron Paul. And he has taken it and run.

In the end, this is not only short-sighted tactically but also essentially insulting to the American people. We are on the internt. Come talk with us. What, you’re too scared to? Big, tough terrorists don’t scare you but we do? Come on, boys, we don’t bite. But we do vote.

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

That’s the ticket

I just spoke with ABC News about its upcoming debates and they’re going to include voter videos — and, one-upping CNN, they’re going to enable voters to also have a voice (if not a vote) in what is selected and shown.

Owen Renfro, a producer there, said most of the videos submitted here would be shared with the public, who can then rate and comment on them. Ratings won’t be the sole determinant of what is used, but it will influence ABC News. That’s all I’ve been wanting. The debate won’t be devoted to user video. Renfro said CNN spent a lot to get its YouTube deal. But moderator George Stephanopoulos will use voter videos alongside his own questions in quizzing the candidates. The first of ABC’s debates is with the Republicans in Iowa on Aug. 5.

I learned this because ABC called to ask my permission to use this video question on health insurance — originally sent in and unused from a Hillary Clinton morning town hall. I also submitted this one, which I sent to the YouTube debate, on broadband internet, and this one about whether the winner will stay online when in office.

(Crossposted from Prezvidgo vote for the broadband video.

PDF: Free the debates

I am at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York, starting off with Prof. Larry Lessig, creator of Creative Commons, making a rousing case for opening up the debates. He says that giving copyright control over the debates and speech like it is insane. So we should not give the debates to proprietary, closed networks. There are so many open networks now: public broadcasting — see the post below — and now CNN, which promises no restriction on the use debate video. Three of the Democratic candidates have joined this call. And Lessig calls on Hillary Clinton to join.

With bloggers and even candidates making liberal use of debate footage on YouTube and the internet and with at least one network — Fox News — relying on fair use as a standard, I ask Lessig what the defense of these remixers is today. He says that fair use is really the right to hire a lawyer. Such cases can drag on forever and middlemen — e.g., YouTube — cannot live with uncertainty. So, of course, the cleanest thing to do is not to give our debate over to proprietary, closed networks in the first place.

(Crossposted at PrezVid)