Corporate Media’s Corporate Debates

Billing the current debates as “a political sham,” David Rosen describes (Eureka Street, 10/08/08) how the media blockbusters–the first debates’ audience was “more than the number of Americans who watched the opening night of the Beijing Olympics”–“not only exclude legitimate third-party candidates, but are structured in a way to inhibit meaningful engagement between the candidates over the major issues.” Rosen exposes the men behind the curtain:

The two executives who currently run the Commission on Presidential Debates are both established Washington insiders and former chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties. Frank Fahrenkopf is the nation’s leading gambling-industry lobbyist and Paul Kirk is a major pharmaceutical-industry lobbyist.

Surprising to many, the debates are not publicly funded events. Like the Olympics, they are sponsored by major corporations, many with legislation pending before the U.S. Congress.

According to the conservative Washington Times, “The sponsors have already spent $3.6 million on federal lobbying over the first six months of the year.” Among the leading sponsors this year are Anheuser-Busch Cos. (Budweiser beer), the International Bottled Water Association and Hewlett-Packard’s Electronic Data Systems.

While writing that “the ’08 debates roll on as stylized television entertainments that drain the heat out of political conflict,” Rosen holds out hope that future “presidential debates will be revived as truly spirited and democratic as they were with Lincoln and Douglas.”

Read FAIR’s magazine Extra!: Dubious Debates: How Media Moderators Lowered the Level of Election ’08 (7-8/08) by Jacqueline Bacon