Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who is Looking Out for the Voters?

The New York Times reports, NBC Wins Battle Over Debate, that the Nevada Supreme Court overruled the district court judge and decided that MSNBC was not required to include candidate Dennis Kucinich in its Democratic presidential debate last night. The Times report says that the victory "will likely be described as a First Amendment victory by [MSNBC], as lawyers for NBC had argued that it had a right, as a privately owned network, to determine whom to invite to the debate. " If so, it is an odd interpretation of the First Amendment. It is an interpretation that allows gigantic news corporations using the public airways to restrict the public's access to information about candidates. The network was explicit in claiming the right to determine who is a viable candidate. But it is the voters who must be allowed this right, not the network corporations.

As John Nichols noted in his ironic article in the Nation, NBC Battles To Keep Kucinich Out of Las Vegas Debate, NBC went court to fight for "the cherished right of television networks to decide who is and who is not a legitimate candidate for president. . . . [M]ajor media conglomerates have traditionally been able to police the parameters of presidential politics. Any affront to this order of affairs is a threat to the ability of corporations to define the American discourse." Nichols concludes that Kucinich’s lawyers " have fewer resources, but are possessed of one commodity that the broadcast and cable network seem to lack: an understanding that democracy is best served by free and open debate." We agree.

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