Excluded from debates on the national state, Jill Stein’s supporters have rallied around the #OpenTheDebates hashtag — and right here in Illinois, state-level, ballot-listed candidates are facing the same freeze-out by the media, including taxpayer-supporter public television.
On October 25th, PBS affiliate WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” will host a candidate debate for the Illinois Comptroller election — but only the Democratic and Republican candidates are invited. The Libertarian Party’s Claire Ball and the Green Party’s Tim Curtin have been told they will not be allowed to participate.
“We make decisions about which candidates are in contention and seem to have viable campaigns,” stated Mary Field, the executive producer for Chicago Tonight, in justifying Curtin’s exclusion. Asked for specific criteria, Field declined to provide a particular poll threshold or other measurement, saying on the station’s part that “this close to an election, we can tell which candidates have gained traction.”
Publicly-funded television should not favor one candidate over another. This is a matter of basic electoral fairness and journalistic integrity — and it’s also a legal requirement under the FCC’s equal time rule, which states that broadcasters who provide a candidate with free air time must provide the same coverage to all candidates for that office.
Over 100,000 Illinois voters signed petitions this year requesting Curtin and Ball’s inclusion on their ballots. We hope you’ll join us in telling WTTW to fulfill their public education duty and expand their debate to all four ballot-listed candidates in one or more of the following ways:
- – Share this tweet and this Facebook status on your social media network (WTTW and PBS are tagged, so they will see the activity)
- – Reply to WTTW’s debate announcement on Twitter, asking why only Democratic and Republican candidates are included when there are four candidates on the ballot
- – Call (773) 583-5000 to tell WTTW that you want open, four-party debates.
- – If you’re a supporter, you can call the Sustainer Hotline at (773) 509-1111, ext. 6 to tell them that you’re reconsidering your donation in light of their political partisanship
- – Email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to express your disappointment at their partisan bias. You can write your own complaint, or use the sample text below:
As an Illinois resident, I object to your exclusion of two of the four candidates for Comptroller from your televised forum.
Voters have a right to hear equally from all ballot-listed candidates. Individual executives at a publicly-funded network have no business deciding who is or is not a “viable” candidate.
The 100,000-plus registered voters who signed petitions this year to have Libertarian and Green candidates listed on Illinois ballots have already demonstrated ample interest in the candidacies of Claire Bell and Tim Curtin.
Open your debates!