Hearst TV says it plans to carry the Aug. 3 Voters First Forum with the GOP presidential candidates—moderated individual presentations rather than a debate—on its 27 TV stations across the country.
It will be part of Hearst’s "Commitment 2016"-branded election coverage.
The two-hour forum is co-hosted by the Manchester Union Leader and C-SPAN, the public affairs net supported by cable operators.
The current lineup includes 14 of the 16 candidates—it could be 17 by then if former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore throws his hat into the crowded ring—Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker.
That list is notable for the absence of what would have been a big TV draw: Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, who declined to participate, first citing the Union Leader's less-than-flattering editorial page treatment of the mogul turned reality TV star turned legitimate presidential contender, then later saying he did not expect to get the paper's endorsement and that there were too many candidates at the event, according to the paper.
In addition to airing the C-SPAN coverage on its stations—reaching almost 21 million households, on either the primary channel or a digital sub channel—Hearst will also stream it on the station Web sites.
Hearst points out it has stations in the first three primary/caucus states: WMUR-TV Manchester; KCCI-TV Des Moines, and WYFF-TV Greenville, S.C.
Hearst VP of programming Emerson Coleman also points out that there are some 2 million households in its markets—over-the-air-only households—who would not otherwise be able to view the forum.
C-SPAN is making the feed available to Hearst at no charge. Terry Murphy, VP of programming, said that the goal was to get the forum in front of as many viewers as possible, so when Hearst asked, C-SPAN said yes. C-SPAN has taken debates from TV stations to air nationally, he pointed out, "so this is just a way of returning the favor.