Tonight on Current TV: Debate 2.0 with Tweets

Current TV partners with Twitter, invites viewers to engage with election coverage.

Live comments from viewers all over the world will accompany Friday night’s presidential debate on Current TV thanks to a partnership between the cable network and instant-messaging network Twitter.

The user-generated debate commentary is just one element of Current TV’s election coverage and its core mission to invite viewers to engage with its programming.

This is the first official partnership between the two companies, although Current TV has integrated Twitter comments before.

“We hope this is the first of many of these sorts of experiments,” Current TV vice president for special programming projects Chloe Sladden said.

This is the only event currently planned that will include live Twitter comments. Current TV has aired live text messages from it audience once before, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2007.

Sladden explained that Friday’s debate will be different from anything that’s been done so far, with users submitting comments live, because the visual look and feel of this will be quite different from just having text on TV.

“It’s a huge step forward that we’re doing with the live debate,” she added.

Current TV wanted to team up with Twitter for the “robust and entrenched audience” that it brings to the table because this is the first large-scale experiment around a live event. “We just knew there was going to be a lot of chatter, so this was the perfect way to take a step forward into this arena,” Sladden said. “It’s very Web 2.0 to be smart about partnering with other networks.”

Comments selected for inclusion will be based on three main factors. They need to be relevant to the debate going on, they should be interesting and they must meet Current TV’s broadcast and community standards. “We really want this to be open to anyone,” Sladden said. “We wanted to make it as accessible as possible. We are encouraging anybody who has anything to say to join us.”

Viewers who wish to participate are strongly encouraged to add “#current” to their tweets, although contrary to some reports, this is not a requirement. Current TV will look at those tweets “first and foremost, but will also be looking across the entire Twitter universe,” according to Sladden.

Comments do have to be in English, but they can come from people of any age, anywhere in the world. Current TV is “excited to see comments from everyone as long as it makes for an open experience” Sladden said.

Current TV is in 58 million homes worldwide, including in Italy and the United Kingdom. The network will run the debate and the Twitter comments in Italy but not in the United Kingdom.

In addition to its user-generated Collective Journalism series and its Vanguard Journalism Group -- the network’s reporting team that has covered issues like water boarding and slave labor in Brazil -- Current TV’s election coverage includes programs like infoMania and SuperNews that provide a more comical look at election news.

Collective Journalism will start running specials related to the election Oct. 6 and, beginning Oct. 1, the network will offer nightly election wrap-ups.