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"Televised Debates are Bad for Democracy"

UK Prime Minister and Labour party leader Gordon Brown, at right, Conservative party leader David Cameron, second from left, and Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg, second from right, in Britain's 3rd televised election debate, Apr. 29, 2010.
AP Photo

"Televised Debates are Bad for Democracy"

Op-Ed, The Huffington Post

June 11, 2010

Author: Azeem Ibrahim, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2008–2010

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security


There seems to be a consensus that the UK's first televised debates that everyone was so excited about were good for our democracy. I would hesitate before making such a hasty judgment.

I concede that they got people talking about the election — although that was always likely to happen in an election which resulted in a hung parliament where no party had a clear majority. It's also certainly true that voter registration was up, turnout was also slightly up, and these developments are not to be sniffed at. But I really wonder whether these aren't short-term gains at the expense of long-term damage. Most of the arguments in their favor have a whiff of the 'all publicity is good publicity' about them.

Firstly, there is the damage they did to the rest of the campaign. They had rendered it a sideshow. The agenda for the whole of the rest of the parties' campaigning was subsequently led by the debates...."

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For Academic Citation:

Ibrahim, Azeem. "Televised Debates are Bad for Democracy." The Huffington Post, June 11, 2010.

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