Are NBC’s Debates Entertainment?

Ed Morrisey handily misses the point of Kucinich’s inclusion in the NBC debates:

A solution in search of a problem found a judge in search of some understanding of the concept of private property and free speech. Both converged in Las Vegas through the efforts of Dennis Kucinich to force his way into the NBC Democratic debate. A Las Vegas judge ruled in favor of Kucinich

You see, there is no problem at all in excluding a candidate on the ballot from the debates.  This is an issue of private property gosh darn it!  (Emphasis mine)

This won’t hold up, but it may not be worth it for NBC to appeal. It will cost them less in legal fees and headaches to simply re-invite Kucinich rather than stand their ground and insist on controlling their own content.

Well, is it their own content?  Is the debate mere political theater, an entertainment product designed chiefly to carry advertising?  Or is it a public service designed to help inform voters and complete the political process?

Can’t have it both ways.

If our Presidential debates (for both parties) are simply an early form of reality tv, then could NBC and the other networks have the decency to stop marketing them as serious political events?  That’s false advertising!  And would news organizations kindly ignore the outcome of the debates?  If debates are as substantial as an episode “Be a SuperStar Model Date a Millionaire: Desert Island”, then why cover it as though performances in any way matter?

On the other hand, if these debates have an impact on voters, and they are a cornerstone of the nomination process, then might one suspect that these events should involve every candidate on the ballot?

In this instance NBC is not controlling their own content, they are controlling the political debate and by extension the vote.  If a network thinks its unfair or in any way disadvantageous to air the debates because of this, then perhaps they should stick to their regular airing schedule, over which they have full control.  But offering to host a widely watched public service does not grant them the right to control the debate and the vote.

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