NBC and FOX were getting beaten up last week over their decision to carry baseball instead of one (in NBC's case) or all (in Fox's) of the presidential debates. (By press time, NBC had decided to provide feeds of both the game and the debates to its affiliates and let them make the call.) Paul Taylor, feeling his oats after apparently convincing all the big networks but ABC to adopt his free political airtime quotas, called their independent editorial decision on the debates "the worst form of arrogance, [which] shows the highest disregard for the public interest." Looks from here like broadcasters-if taken together-are teaming up to serve the public's interest in both politics and baseball.
We know the Paul Taylors of the world are convinced that the American people are such chuckleheads that unless you force them to watch debates, they will instead watch something else. But, of course, unless you send National Guardsmen to police each TV home, even if every broadcaster carried the debates, people could switch to cable or pop in a video or DVD or retune the satellite dish to a high-school lacrosse game or turn off the set and go listen to the baseball game on the radio.
Point is, the debates will be available over broadcast and cable to virtually everyone who wants to watch them. And we'll be among them, at least part of the time. And, thanks to FOX and NBC, if our eyes begin to glaze over during a particularly lengthy Gore response, or we must catch our breath from laughing over a Dubya flub, we can always arrogantly and disinterestedly sneak over to the game. Thanks, broadcasters, for serving all your publics.