Sunday, June 01, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Don’t restrict TV debate

Frank Gilbert, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor, this week criticized Arkansas television stations for not inviting him or Josh Drake, the Green Party candidate, to a televised debate this fall.

Gilbert and Drake will be on the ballot in November, but not in this debate, unless something changes. Gilbert hinted he might sue if he’s not invited to the debate.

The debate will include only Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross.

KATV in Little Rock, KAIT in Jonesboro and KHBS/KHOG in northwest Arkansas will air one debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Oct. 7.

Gilbert denounced the stations for failing to include new party candidates in the debate.

“The decision to ignore and therefore silence half the candidates in this race is inexplicable,” Gilbert said. “The stations have chosen to ignore their mandate to work in the public interest. They have also ignored the majority of Arkansans who believe we need a third political party,” he continued.
Gilbert called KATV’s explanation for limiting the debate to the two major parties, “A lame excuse.”

A KATV employee told him the station uses the Commission on Presidential Debates rules, which exclude third-party candidates.

“There is no reason for anyone in Arkansas to follow those rules,” Gilbert says. “It has nothing to do with us. It overlooks the fact that Arkansas has a 3 percent threshold for maintaining party status. More importantly, it ignores the absolute fact that Arkansans deserve to hear more than two points of view.

“If the commission and KATV had their way, there would only be McDonald’s and Burger King. Hardee’s, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Taco Bell, Sonic, Pizza Hut, KFC and hundreds of other fast-food outlets would be ignored and shuttered. If we deserve choice and variety at lunch, we definitely need a broader political menu,” Gilbert said.

When asked if a lawsuit was possible, Gilbert said, “I’d rather not, but it’s up to the media moguls and their political pals.

“These broadcasters need to rethink their decision. Just because the old parties will be buying more advertising is no reason to ignore other candidates,” he said.

Gilbert says the television stations favored the old parties because they’re spending millions of dollars on television advertising. He has accused several Arkansas television stations of bias and failure to serve the public interest.

Hutchinson and Ross should reach out to Gilbert and Drake and invite them to the debate. Voters would be more inclined to watch with the other candidates participating in the proceedings.