Corporate-sponsored Presidential debates: No, thank you

Yahoo had its Democratic Candidate Mashup. Google and YouTube teamed with CNN for a series of presidential debates.

Yahoo had its Democratic Candidate Mashup. Google and YouTube teamed with CNN for a series of presidential debates. It's a troubling trend: Politics is baldly dependent on corporate largess this election cycle.

Now, you may say, "Hey, Ratcliffe, these are media companies covering the election. We need that." But I'd only point out that these events are examples of media companies creating news rather than covering it. Like the railroad companies of the 1800s that gave a candidate a railway car and right of way on its tracks to speed them to key regions, this is an example of corporate sponsorship of the appearance of politicians. Every candidate got a car, so the railroad would have the winner's gratitude to exploit in office.

We shouldn't be blasé about a media company being seen by a candidate as "key" to their election, because that creates exactly the kind of quid-pro-quo relationships that undermine the people's voice once the election is over. Unfortunately, presidents open their doors to the companies that help them get elected, not the individuals who vote for them.

In Google's case, for example, there are some key issues that will be decided in the next President's term: Privacy regulations, wireless access and other legal issues that could constrain or unleash Google's earning power. Sponsoring debates is good business. Does anyone know if Sergey and Larry have been in contact with the candidates along the way, like the well-heeled influence peddlers of the past?

If these staged events are anything other than programming like you'd expect from any other media company, please continue to watch. Just be sure that you recognize that, as with any other media event, these events are controlled by gatekeepers, editors who feature particular points of view among the audience/questioners submitting their video or text messages to candidates, and it comes with advertising that have never appeared during presidential debates of the past. Nothing is changed for the better.