Thursday, September 30, 2004

Pay No Attention To That Camera Man Behind the Curtain

So, it's Fox's turn to direct the camera during tonight's debate, according to this Reuters article.

Networks, however, are apparently balking at the candidates' MOU item prohibiting reaction shots or audience cutaways. The audience shot prohibition I'm fine with - it's always condescending anyway to see who they choose to pair with what key word.

What good, however, is an agreement between two people who aren't actually in charge of the event - when everyone else has agreed to disagree? While I don't trust Fox's hand on the lens, I do support the networks' collective decision to retain control of the images. Maybe. Sorta. What if we got C-SPAN to do it? Wait - they don't have cutaways either. From the article:

"I think the campaigns and candidates should do the debating and leave the television and the journalism to the networks," said one broadcast news executive.

In addition, all four broadcast journalists chosen as moderators for the debates -- Charles Gibson of ABC and Bob Schieffer of CBS, and Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill of the Public Broadcasting Service -- have refused to sign the 32-page agreement governing conduct of the events.

"That's an agreement between the candidates. It's not an agreement between the moderators, who are independent journalists," said Frank Fahrenkopf, Republican co-chairman of the debate commission.

He also said the commission has declined to sign the document on grounds that doing so would jeopardize the tax-exempt, nonpartisan status that allows his group to sponsor the debates.

While the commission will enforce "what we can enforce" under the ground rules, Fahrenkopf acknowledged, "there are certain things in that agreement that are beyond our control," such as the networks' use of "cutaways" and reaction shots.

So, according to that first graf, then, should networks stick to television and journalism and leave the campaigning to the candidates? (Fox News, I'm looking at you . . . .) Of course, this article's greatest unasked question is what will happen if a moderator wants to change the thermostat.

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