December 12, 2007 12:20 PM
"Afternoon Delight" is a catchy tune and all. But afternoon debates? That baffles me.
Why are more and more presidential debates taking place in the afternoon? When the audience is a fraction of their prime-time lineups?
To refresh your memory ...
There was a CNBC debate back in October at 4pm.
There was that NPR debate last week at 2 in the afternoon.
And now, the next two days, we're going to have two debates broadcast on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel -- at 2pm.
What's up with that?
My first (admittedly, very cynical) concern about this was: Have the cable networks decided that their nighttime lineups are more compelling when they're digesting, debating and spinning the debates than running them? That they'd rather have their pundits bloviating about soundbites than the long-form debate?
But good news: the knee-jerk cynic in me was wrong. That's not the case with these next two debates. In conversations with cable network insiders, they confirmed they would always prefer to have the debates in their prime-time lineup, and that they were flummoxed by the decision.
Whose decision was it then? It turns out that the debate is being co-sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television. So they're the people behind the lunch-time event. But why are the Iowa media folks holding this important debate when so many Iowans are at work, away from the TV or radio?
I spoke with Iowa Public Television Communications Director Jennifer Konfrst, who filled me in on the backstory.
"The debates were originally scheduled for this upcoming weekend, but because of the caucus date moving, we had to scramble to find dates that worked for the debates, the candidates and the Register's schedule."
Okay. That covers the weekday angle, but why the time?
"The hour of the day is to accommodate the deadlines at the Des Moines Register, to be honest," said Konfrst. "It would not have been our preference. We normally did these things on Saturdays at one… They're partners of ours. But to be fair, we're trying to make it as available as possible.
"We understand that the time is not ideal, but we're trying to make the best of a bad situation. We are trying to make it available to as many outlets as possible, and we'll be rebroadcasting it again tonight."
So the daytime debate issue is partly due to the shifting calendar and partly due to the deadlines at the newspaper that is co-sponsoring the event.
And with all three cable news networks running the Iowa Public Television feed of the debate, it looks like we're finally going to get to see the Democrats debate on Fox News Channel, even if only by accident.