Gwen Ifill covers GOP convention 2008

NewsHour gives party conventions 18 hours, assigns female anchor team

With the NewsHour‘s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff stepping into co-anchor roles for PBS’s coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, producers have reconfigured their set and editorial plans for the 18 hours of live broadcasts that begin airing on PBS stations on Tuesday.

The coverage, airing at 8 p.m. ET through Thursday on most PBS stations, marks the passing of the torch from retired anchor Jim Lehrer, and makes Ifill and Woodruff the first female anchor due to co-anchor coverage of the major party conventions…

This time we let our listeners hear directly from candidates

In fall 1992, a number of public broadcasting’s gatekeepers opened their gates to give candidates unedited, unmediated “free time” to talk with the electorate over the air. Here’s a first-hand report on the experience, from two public radio program directors — Dave Becker of WDUQ, Pittsburgh, and Dave Kanzeg of WCPN, Cleveland. We’re here to confess to breaking a few broadcasting rules. They’re not in any FCC handbooks or federal code, but they seem to be universal anyway:

Never break your regular format for politics. Never give up control of your station’s sound to politicians.

Advocates of free time for candidates are many — those who try it are few

Though the 1988 campaign prompted many calls for television networks to let candidates talk directly to the voters, candidates again this season have to buy time or squeeze through the media filter to get on the air. That’s not to say that some producers aren’t trying the idea; the ones who do, however, are finding that their success in presenting candidates in an unedited, nonconfrontational format hinges on the political considerations of candidates, networks and viewers. Voices of the Electorate, the two-part series produced by Alvin Perlmutter’s Independent Production Fund (IPF) and two minority citizens’ groups, is the most visible recent example (Current, Sept. 21). The series aired last month after PBS and the American Program Service ordered last-minute cuts to eliminate Democratic candidate Bill Clinton’s unedited comments, which both distributors deemed ”inappropriate.” APS said Clinton’s remarks didn’t respond to the minority issue discussed in the program.

The Voters’ Channel: A Feasibility Study, 1990

The Markle Foundation, then a major backer of public TV, proposed in 1990 that PBS develop the Voters’ Channel, a project planned to make more useful information available to voters. Here are excerpts from the 132-page feasibility study prepared for Markle by the independent production company Alvin H. Perlmutter Inc. Markle offered $5 million to help PBS undertake the project in time for the 1992 election, but the foundation and PBS could not reach agreement on plans. The project was dropped in June 1991. [Current coverage.]
Preface | Summary of Recommendations | Introduction | Is It Feasible? Preface
American government has become weaker in the age of television.