To televise or not to televise?

Recently, the White House announced that an upcoming bipartisan meeting on healthcare reform will broadcast live on television. This is an interesting move by the Obama Administration, begging several questions: Why broadcast live? What is the strategy behind this communication? What are the repercussions of this decision?

In thinking about the strategy behind the decision to broadcast the debate live, the Tea Party (see my last post) comes to mind. Much attention has been given to this conservative movement after its weekend convention in Nashville, headlined by Sarah Palin. The Tea Parties have stimulated anti-Obama and anti-Democrat discussion, and putting the “other side” into the spotlight might be a way to leverage the flurry of discussion for the Democratic Party.

According to a CNN article, the Administration says that it plans to televise the meeting in order to fulfill a campaign promise made by Obama that some healthcare negotiations would be live. The article later says that the President promised the live coverage in his State of the Union address last month. I am unsure at this point whether the promise was made during his actual campaign or simply in the Sate of the Union.

There are both positive and negative consequences that can result from this decision to broadcast live. Repercussions of the televised meeting could include:

  • Transparency: The Obama Administration could create a standard of transparency regarding its plans, goals, reasoning and strategies for healthcare if it discloses them to Democrats, Republicans and the American public through television.
  • Inclusion: By televising the meeting, it will seem that the government is making an effort to include the American people in the healthcare debate.
  • Resistance: Televising the meeting could create resistance to the public option for healthcare if the meeting presents an image of chaos and disorganization within the issue.

In deciding to open up a new communication channel via television for the healthcare debate, the issue of two-way communication and a feedback loop needs to be addressed. Will the White House debate offer a way for viewers to comment on the meeting? For the American people to truly feel included in this issue, the Administration must not only open up a channel for the government’s voice but provide one for the people’s voice as well.

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