Donate
News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Big Picture
True
NBC Handout/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Just like on game shows, candidates are not supposed to question or interrupt each other, and specific moments are intended to humanize and personalize the candidates," argues Michael Socolow.

Think presidential debates are dull? Thank 1950s game shows

Socolow is an associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine.

Televised political debates continue to disappoint viewers and critics. Sometimes they even frustrate the participants themselves.

That's because, since their inception, nobody has been able to come up with a model that rival candidates would accept, and that would be useful and informative for the viewing public. The only debate arrangement everyone agreed to nearly 60 years ago largely remains in place today – the game show format.

The first TV debates were shaped by federal regulations, an enterprising network executive named Frank Stanton, and a series of negotiations that were hampered by a tight schedule and dueling campaigns.

Keep reading...
News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.