Political debates have recently been drawing in unprecedented ratings for networks. CNBC was the latest channel lucky enough to bolster its ratings with such an event, and the relatively small financial news-oriented cable channel promised that it would take a debate between Republican candidates for the White House in 2016 in an entirely new direction. Well, according to the Republican National Committee, CNBC delivered on that promise…just not in the way that the RNC was hoping. What the RNC considers to be a mishandling of the debate has now cost CNBC parent company NBC the right to air the Republican debate set to occur in February of 2016.
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus informed NBC News of the decision via letter, according to the Huffington Post. Complaints about the treatment of the participants during the CNBC debate were the driving force. Accusations of a liberal bias by the moderators, and questions that seemed designed more to embarrass candidates than shed light on their platforms for the presidency, were more than enough for the RNC to withdraw support from NBC.
While the fairness of the questions from the moderators is entirely subjective to each individual candidate, it seems that CNBC fell short on managing the promised format of the debate as well. Despite the network vowing to introduce the debt ceiling as a major component for discussion in the debate, participants were not given equal time slots or even opportunities to expand on their intentions regarding financial and economic matters. The level of professionalism that the candidates and the RNC seemed to expect of the CNBC debate was lacking, and NBC will be paying the price in February.
That price will likely be pretty high. Aside from the prestige of sorts that comes from hosting something as socially relevant as a presidential debate, it is likely that public interest will be even higher in February of an election year than it is now in the end of October. Ratings for debates on both sides of the aisle have already been impressive; losing them for February is a cost that NBC is hoping to avoid having to pay. Understandably, NBC News is not quite as hasty to declare the relationship with the RNC terminated as the RNC seems to be in the wake of the CNBC affair.
The RNC does still intend for a debate to happen in February of 2016, which undoubtedly lends some hope to NBC that the issue may be resolved with promises of more agreeable conduct in the future. The aftermath of the debate seems to have rattled the candidates, who are now meeting to have more involvement in the arrangement of debates.
Overall, CNBC’s failure to conduct the latest Republican debate in a manner pleasing to the RNC and the Republican candidates may well extend beyond just embarrassing NBC. We’ll have to wait and see if the conflict comes to a resolution that works for both sides. As of right now, NBC looks to be the big loser of the latest debate.