Whether the restructuring happens in 2016, or later, by deciding to broadcast so little of the conventions this year, the networks send the message to the public that the gatherings are unimportant. While Hurricane Isaac diverted much of the coverage from the Republican National Convention, the damage done, or benefits achieved, by the winner of the next election will last longer than the storm and affect more than the Gulf Coast.
Few enough people are engaged in the political process. Cynicism deepens when TV networks join the ranks of the cynics and send a message that since so many Americans don't care about politics, the broadcast networks don't either and so let's give the people what they want: more crime and slime. The political ads will play and replay at the commercial breaks, but the ads are fast food compared to live political TV.
There have been many suggestions for how to improve the drama and interest of these quadrennial affairs. Since television and the political process are joined at the hip, broadcasters, especially, have a responsibility to help make them more compelling. If NBC, for example, can spend millions to cover the Olympics, blocking off hours of primetime for track and field and swimming events, is it too much to ask all the networks to devote time to something far more important to every American and the world?
Broadcasters use public airwaves and make a lot of money from them. Because of that and because networks are run by Americans, they have a duty to perform in the public interest. Carrying just one hour of each convention is a dereliction of that duty.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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