BROADCASTING, September 12, 1960

SPECIAL REPORT: POLITICS


GREAT DEBATES TO BE DISCUSSIONS

'Debate' misnomer shed as Nixon-Kennedy series veers to panel

The so-called "Great Debates" between Sen. Kennedy and Vice President Nixon lost that designation last week. Representatives of the candidates and the networks, meeting in Washington Thursday (Sept. 8), agreed that the title was a misnomer to begin with, and that the joint appearances would go on the air without benefit of name.

In fact, the candidates' appearances on the four-network TV-radio simulcasts will not be considered programs at all, but rather "interruptions of programming" for a discussion of the issues. The agreement apparently was motivated by the feeling that a debate must produce a winner, something these appearances are not designed-officially- to do, and also that they will not take classic debate form.

Some of the physical details also appeared to be agreed upon. CBS will originate the first debate (Sept. 26), NBC the second (Oct. 7 or 8 exact date up to the networks) and ABC the third (Oct. 13) and fourth (Oct. 21). Each network will furnish its own moderator.

Format . The form they will take, at least for the first appearance, was worked out last week. This is how it will go:

The first broadcast will originate from Chicago Sept. 26 (9:30-10:30 p.m., New York time). CBS will handle this first program (or non-program), with Don Hewitt, producer of the Douglas Edwards newscasts, in charge for the network. Mr. Hewitt handled the network side last week in meeting with J. Leonard Reinsch, Guild, Bascom & Bonfigli and Executive Producer Bill Wilson, representing Sen. Kennedy, and Ted Rogers, representing Vice President Nixon.

Political party and network representatives are scheduled to meet again this Thursday in Chicago to settle further details of the Kennedy-Nixon appearances.

The Sept. 26 program will be staged in the studios of WBBM-TV the CBS owned station in Chicago. Appearing on the air will be the two candidates, a moderator selected by CBS (probably news commentator Howard K. Smith), and four newsmen, one each from the four radio and TV networks whose facilities will carry the joint appearance.

Own Corners . Messrs. Kennedy and Nixon will be at separate lecterns, with the moderator between them. The four newsmen, with their backs to the cameras, will face the candidates. Their faces will be seen only at the start of the program when they turn around to acknowledge their introductions. When they ask questions in the latter part of the program they are to represent "the front row of the audience-asking questions for the 100 million people seated behind them at home."

Also in the studio, aside from the necessary technicians, will be a timekeeper (Sig Mickelson, president of CBS News) and two assistants, Mr. Reinsch and one aide and Mr. Rogers and one aide.

Each candidate will have eight minutes for an opening statement, and then the newsmen will alternate in asking questions. The answering candidate will have 2 minutes to reply, and then the other candidate will have 1 minutes to comment on that reply. And so on for the next 34 minutes, after which each candidate will have 3 or 4 minutes to sum up.

A clock arrangement controlled by the timekeeper will be installed in each candidate's lectern, but will not be seen by the home audience. "We're not playing Beat the Clock, Mr. Hewitt commented.

The candidates will arrive at WBBM-TV one hour before air time to familiarize themselves with the physical arrangements and to pose for photographers. Press arrangements will be handled by the news secretaries for the respective candidates. Newsmen will not be permitted in the studio during the show, but may view the proceedings from another studio.

As of last week, neither ABC or NBC had revealed its moderators but the networks agreed that no network executive would narrate the shows.