Television networks hosting future GOP debates are expected to receive a letter with a list of demands from GOP campaigns in the next few days.
The letter, drafted for the campaigns by veteran GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg, asks networks to commit to, among other things, 30 second opening and closing statements, pre-approval of on screen graphics, not asking candidates to raise their hands in answer to a question, not holding a lightning round, not allowing “candidate-to-candidate questioning” and keeping the temperature in the debate hall below 67 degrees.
Due to the fact that the next GOP debate is within about a week, Fox Business Network won’t be subject to those demands, according to multiple reports from the Sunday summit of the campaigns. Next up on the schedule is CNN, which is set to host a GOP debate Dec. 15 in Nevada.
The networks have yet to receive the letters with the list of demands, so none of them are commenting at the moment. But the push and pull with the candidates and the networks will continue as the networks vie for ratings and the candidates vie for the big moments and free air time debates bring. For the networks, the debates have been ratings gold. Even CNBC, which thus far has brought in the lowest ratings for a debate, got 14 million viewers, a huge win for any television channel, broadcast or cable.
Some demands, such as temperature of the debate hall, will likely be easily accepted. Others, such as approval of on screen graphics or what kind of camera shots can be shown may be another story. Several networks have started incorporating live viewer reaction during the telecast, with Twitter streams or online poll results. Other network and Republican insiders said 30 second opening statements are ratings killers, slowing the tempo from the start and that the networks aren’t likely to be happy with the suggestion.
“You’re not going to tell a CNN control room, or any other network’s control room, what the director shots are going to be,” CNN anchor Kate Bolduan said on Tuesday before an interview with RNC communications director and chief strategist Sean Spicer.
Fox Business Network took CNBC straight on in commercials for their GOP presidential debate, suggesting that they’ll do a better job than CNBC, which was largely panned for the debate last week and is credited with being the spark for the campaigns organizing.
The ads, which began airing last week after the CNBC debate, include a narrator saying that “CNBC never asked the real questions, never covered the real issues.”
“That’s why on November 10 the real debate about our economy and our future is only on Fox Business Network,” the ad continues.
Fox Business sent out a memo on their debate’s format on Friday, which included closing statements, though no opening statements, and longer time allowances for answers. Though the RNC asked Fox to talk to each campaign one on one to talk about logistics, nothing has changed about formats.
The other question is how the campaigns will bring their demands to Fox News, which is set to host another two debates in January and March. In the CNN interview on Monday, Spicer said if the candidates were happy with the Fox News format, then there will likely be no changes (the first GOP debate, hosted by Fox News, was largely praised across the board). Another possible reason, as the Washington Post reported, is that some campaigns might be “afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad.” The Fox News family is an important one for the Republican candidates, as Sen. Lindsey Graham illustrated during CNBC’s undercard debate when he was asked which apps he uses most.
“Fox News. Sorry CNBC, we’re in a Republican primary here,” Graham said