CNN skeds post-debate talks

Cabler joins others in renouncing party ads

NEW YORK — CNN is pulling together a cross-section of undecided voters to assemble in a TV studio for a town meeting, hosted by Wolf Blitzer, after each of the three presidential debates Tuesday, Oct. 11 and 17.

Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, said the cost of the town meetings will come out of $2 million in soft money it would’ve coughed up if it were following the pattern of previous contributions to the Democratic and Republican parties during past presidential elections.

Early in August, Time Warner joined a number of corporations in renouncing what they called a corrupt campaign-finance system in which the political parties extract huge sums of money from businesses for TV commercials that are supposedly meant for party-building activities. Instead, many of the 30-second spots wind up as blatant candidate-boosting commercials, either extolling the party’s presidential standard-bearer or tearing down his opponent.

As part of its overall strategy, TW said it would spend that soft money on voter-education activities for the period leading up to Election Day.

Exhibit A is the town meetings, which will go out over CNN live under the umbrella title “The Voters Respond: A CNN and Time Town Meeting.” The undecided voters will assemble in three battleground states where the polls show that the race between Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Democratic Vice President Al Gore is too close to call: Florida, Missouri and Michigan.

In Florida, the venue Tuesday will be the U. of Tampa. In Missouri on Oct. 11, the place will be the Lodge at Grant’s Trail in St. Louis. And in Michigan, the Oct. 17 town meeting will be held at the Bunert School Museum in Warren.

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