Dozens of Local Congressional Debates to Complement Live, National 'PBS Debate Night' Broadcast on Oct. 15, 2000

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- Nine Senate and 36 House Debates Confirmed -
- House and Senate Leaders Set to Face Off on Election Issues in National Debate-

(ALEXANDRIA, VA) - With control of both Houses of Congress up for grabs in the most closely contested election season in recent memory, more than 50 PBS stations are offering Americans a front row seat to watch live debates and other programs spotlighting 45 Congressional races nationwide this Sunday evening, as part of the third biennial PBS DEBATE NIGHT.

The local programs - which range from traditional debates to town hall forums - will accompany a national debate featuring Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE); Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK), chair of the House Republican Conference; Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV); and House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI). Airing on Sunday, October 15, 2000, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET. (check local listings), PBS DEBATE NIGHT is the only national forum for congressional leaders to present their party's views on subjects such as education, the federal budget surplus, Social Security and Medicare.

Both the national and local broadcasts are made possible through the generous support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Local public television stations will broadcast nine Senate debates in Delaware, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey (Ind. candidates), Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In addition, programs spotlighting 36 House races, as well as gubernatorial, state senate, local office contests and ballot initiatives will be broadcast Sunday night on PBS stations nationwide. (A complete list of local PBS DEBATE NIGHT broadcasts is attached.)

"Only PBS will offer Americans the opportunity to hear Congressional leaders debate key national issues that could determine which party wins control of the House and Senate," said Bob Olive, senior director of major projects at PBS. "In addition, voters can turn to the PBS stations in their communities for debates featuring local candidates and issues."

This year's local PBS DEBATE NIGHT broadcast features unprecedented statewide and regional PBS station partnerships. The New York PBS stations, led by WXXI Rochester, created a statewide election Web site ( www.nyelection.org) featuring searchable candidate speeches, candidate information and schedules, as well as voter registration information. Stations in Florida and Nevada have each joined forces to spotlight Senate races. In addition, participating PBS DEBATE NIGHT stations have formed alliances with commercial and public radio stations, newspapers, a variety of community groups and The League of Women Voters.

Local PBS DEBATE NIGHT formats vary widely - some broadcasts will feature community group representatives, journalists, and high school students questioning the candidates; others will offer video profiles of the candidates and segments on key issues, or integrate questions from "citizens on the street" and post-broadcast Web chats.

To complement the on-air broadcasts, audiences can log on to the PBS Democracy Project Web site at PBS.org/democracy, and visit "Read Between the Lines," an online voter's guide. Here, visitors will find tools to make informed political decisions, including a tutorial in how to interpret political debates.

Margaret Warner and Gwen Ifill, senior correspondents for THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, will moderate the live national debate from the WETA-TV studios in Shirlington, VA. Local debates will immediately precede or follow the national debate broadcast.

PBS DEBATE NIGHT is a key component of the PBS Democracy Project, an initiative that provides distinctive and engaging local and national public affairs coverage to encourage expanded civic discourse. This year's PBS DEBATE NIGHT is the third biennial presentation of local and national congressional debate programming on PBS stations. PBS DEBATE NIGHT is a production of the Public Broadcasting Service and for THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER.

Upcoming PBS Democracy Project highlights include: TIME TO CHOOSE - A PBS/NPR VOTER'S GUIDE, a live, three-hour broadcast originating from five PBS stations around the country. Airing Wednesday, November 1, at 8:00 p.m. ET on PBS and NPR stations nationwide (check local listings), the program will examine the critical issues and questions that determine each voter's decision in this November's presidential election. An unprecedented partnership among four public broadcasting entities, TIME TO CHOOSE will bring together public broadcasting's award-winning news and public affairs programs -- THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, FRONTLINE, and "Talk of the Nation" from NPR News. This unique broadcast, funded in part by CPB, will be produced for television viewers, radio listeners and online users.

The CPB-funded PBS Democracy Project has also awarded grants to 73 stations for locally based, original election-year programming and online content. In addition to this week's local PBS DEBATE NIGHT broadcasts, other station-produced programs include:

  • 14 local versions of THE CHOICE, profiling candidates in key local or statewide elections, in the spirit of FRONTLINE's acclaimed quadrennial examination of the presidential candidates.
  • 33 Innovative projects, including: KQED San Francisco's Initiative on Trial which targets one of California's most controversial propositions; Colorado's Ad Watch segments; Connecticut's On Air and On Line featuring a debate for Senate candidates on TV, followed by a cyberchat with the candidates; WVIZ Cleveland's three hours of programming on Election Night, in partnership with WKYC (NBC); KERA Dallas's documentary Texas and the Latino Vote; KEET Eureka's Teen Vote 2000 engaging 7,000 high school students; and KUED Salt Lake City's Political Minutes featuring landmarks of Utah's political history.
  • 39 Election Web sites including: KCET Hollywood's bilingual site; KVIE Sacramento's election video on demand; Idaho's streaming video of debates; and KCPT Kansas City's customized candidate information and voter education.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 347 public television stations. Serving nearly 100 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org.


Dara Goldberg