PBS has announced its plan to offer free air time to presidential candidates beginning tonight, October 25, and concluding on Friday, November 3. The candidates will get 2 and a half minutes at the end of the "NewsHour withJim Lehrer" to address viewers directly, but the offer is not open to allthe candidates: The PBS proposal provides four nights for Al Gore, and four for George W. Bush.
This narrowing of the debate to the major parties continues the exclusionary spirit of this year's presidential debates, organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and moderated by NewsHour host Jim Lehrer.
The CPD, a creation of the two major parties, devised debate rules that were intended to keep viable third-party candidates out of the process. For whatever reason, PBS and its flagship newscast have decided to do the same.
The air time proposal is essentially the same as the one being offered by the commercial networks. Ironically, eight nights would give PBS a chance to offer time to virtually all the major and viable minor party candidates.
ACTION: Contact PBS and "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and let them know that free air time should be extended to all viable candidates. Point out that because of the exclusionary policies of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Gore and Bush have already received plenty of free air time. Encourage PBS to re-consider its proposal while there is still time.
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