What in the world are South Carolina Democrats thinking? Who thought it was a good idea to ban C-Span from live coverage of the Democrat state convention? C-Span wasn’t specifically targeted – all the cable news networks are shut out, too, except for MSNBC. The excluded networks are not taking the decision well.
Every political junkie in America knows that C-Span is the place to go when looking for coverage of anything political. This is particularly true during political conventions and other large partisan events. The cable channel’s live coverage is unsurpassed. Viewers don’t have to worry about partisan journalists or talking heads from standard cable news networks chiming in or interrupting coverage for commercial breaks. South Carolina Democrats have decided to give MSNBC, the most partisan liberal-leaning cable network, exclusive rights to live coverage. All the other networks, including C-Span, CNN, and Fox News Channel, are required to wait three hours after the convention ends to show their live footage.
South Carolina is an early primary state. The Democrat state convention is a required stop for the presidential candidates. The cattle call, er, showcase of candidates give the state’s voters a leg up in hearing from all the candidates in person. MSNBC was chosen to “enhance the proceedings”, according to a party spokesman. Two MSNBC show hosts, Joy-Ann Reid, and the Rev. Al Sharpton will interview all of the candidates in attendance using a set specifically built for them to do so inside the convention hall. I doubt it is a coincidence that two black show hosts were chosen to do the interviews. The majority of South Carolina Democrat primary voters are African-American. This is important because South Carolina follows Iowa and New Hampshire as the third state to hold its primary vote. It is known as the First in the South. What better choice could MSNBC have made than to pick their two loudest race-baiters to interview the Democrat candidates? It’s all about putting on a good show, you see.
In an interview, a spokesman for the South Carolina Democratic Party, Tim Sullivan, disputed the notion that networks had been “barred” from covering the convention, though he conceded that MSNBC had indeed been granted the exclusive live rights.
Mr. Sullivan said the decision was part of a broader agreement with MSNBC that, he argued, would enhance the proceedings. Two MSNBC hosts, Joy-Ann Reid and the Rev. Al Sharpton, are set to interview each of the Democratic presidential candidates from a set constructed inside the convention hall.
“This is probably one of the first times that a major state convention is going to have a show broadcasting from inside of it,” Mr. Sullivan said, adding, “We wanted to put on this big show for our conventiongoers and for our viewers.”
C-Span, normally a stoic, quiet presence in political coverage is making their objections known. In an attempt to put a halt to a potentially slippery slope, C-Span is going public with its complaint. CNN and Fox News Channel lodged complaints, too.
“This has never happened before, ever,” said Steve Scully, the C-Span political editor, who has overseen the channel’s campaign coverage since the early 1990s.
Mr. Scully, who also hosts C-Span’s popular call-in show, is perhaps best known for a stoic onscreen demeanor that remains in place even when callers rant and complain. On Wednesday, Mr. Scully sounded more animated.
“You have what is an open event, and a political party dictating who can and cannot carry it live,” he said in an interview. “It really is a very undemocratic move. If they’re trying to get access to the widest audience possible, why not let everyone in?”
C-Span lodged a formal complaint on Wednesday with the convention’s organizers, calling their move “the antithesis of openness” that “could set a precedent that would end up seriously limiting citizen access to key presidential electoral events.”
Fox News, which was also barred from broadcasting the event live, said it planned to sign the C-Span letter and had lodged its own complaint.
Playing favorites in cable news coverage seems like a bone-headed move from the South Carolina Democrats. In this case, it also smacks of racial pandering. As Steve Scully correctly notes, MSNBC is just as likely to cut away from live coverage of the convention if breaking news warrants it.
“Maybe they think that they are going to get better coverage. But they are losing out on Fox, C-SPAN and CNN who all intended to carry parts of the speeches live,” he said, adding, “Live is a key factor. We could put it on Sunday, but by that point, who cares?”
This is a short-sighted decision that will affect future media coverage of Democrat events in South Carolina. We’ll see if the pandering is worth it. If they’ve angered C-Span, you know it will come back to bite them.