WLS-TV puts HD side-channel to political use


ABC O&O WLS-TV 7 in Chicago will be hosting no less than six debates between candidates for various offices during next year’s primary election season, running them live on HD side channel 7.2.

The debates will be held between 1/7/10 and 1/20/10, will start locally at 7 PM, and will be carried live on the HD side channel and on the station’s website. The main channel will then run them again at either 10:30 PM or 11:05 PM.

WLS is hosting the debates in conjunction with League of Women Voters and the Better Government Association.

The featured offices are US Senator, Governor and Cook County Council President. Since it is a primary election, the Republican and Democratic Parties will each have a one debate per office.

Commented WLS President/GM Emily Barr, “For the past two decades, ABC 7 has continued the tradition of airing debates to help frame important issues for Illinois voters. However, 2010 marks an unprecedented effort for us in that we will produce and air, on multiple platforms, six different debates for the upcoming February 2nd Primary. We are grateful to our partners, the League of Women Voters and the Better Government Association, for participating in a process that offers the electorate a close-up look at the candidates and the issues.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This is both great for the public file and a great use of digital technology. Important public affairs programming can be offered without preempting regularly scheduled prime time programming. This will be a good story to tell FCC Commissioner Michael Copps during next year’s Quadrennial Review, and the more such stories there are, the better.