CBS, Fox Still Stingy About Debate Footage

    August 8, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Activists on both sides of the political fence are thrilled that NBC, ABC, C-SPAN, and CNN have all agreed to allow Presidential debate footage to be legally shared, blogged, excerpted, and uploaded to video sites like YouTube.

CBS, however, still hasn’t joined the Web 2.0 revolution, and Fox has said it has no intention of it, at least not when it comes to its video property.

CNN was the first to announce it, a while back, after pressured by an left-right alliance led by Stanford professor and lawyer Lawrence Lessig. Initially opposed to allowing debate footage to be shared, both ABC and NBC recently followed suit, with ABC making its announcement in advance of Sunday night’s Republican debate, and NBC announcing the same policy change for last night’s AFL-CIO Democratic debate.

NBC put more restrictions on the footage – videos must be attributed to MSNBC, be used without commercial intent, and moderators are not to be used in ads – but nobody’s complaining.

“ABC and NBC deserve praise for leveling the playing field–allowing everyday people to share key debate moments on blogs and YouTube just like the networks choose moments to show on the air,” said Adam Green, who leads media reform and Internet freedom campaigns for Civic Action. “It’s good for our democracy that TV networks are removing themselves as the sole deciders of which debate moments can have a life online.”

With all of the television networks loosening their grip on political footage, the 2008 Presidential race, crowded and fragmented as it is, should shape up to be most publicly involved election in American history.

“These networks are not only embracing new technology, but new communities," Mike Krempasky, co-founder of, said. "Their willingness to loosen the reins a bit will go a long way towards improving our politics as more and more people get involved.”

It’s also somewhat bittersweet for an audience, growing more cynical with every Daily Show episode, that has become nearly as distrustful of the media as they have of politicians.

“It is really great to see the networks beginning to take their community service role seriously again," said Carl Malamud, the founder of Public.Resource.Org. whose pressure led to C-SPAN’s change of heart. "They should be congratulated for encouraging this public use of election footage."

That leaves CBS as the lone hold-out in regards to how it will handle the call for loosening of restrictions, and Fox made it clear in USA Today that it would treat debate footage just as does all of its programming.

But Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is hopeful that CBS will change its mind, leaving Fox out on a stingy limb. "Democracy works best when citizens are active participants in the debates," he said. "I encourage all media organizations to think about what kinds of content they could make available for re-use to allow people to get involved."