Sunday, September 22, 2002

At last! A true American Candidate! Honest to God, this is a dream come true. There _is_ a collective consciousness - a great cloud of ideas floating overhead that we all share! With the recent talk about how to expand the broadband network penetration - through innovative content and programming - Suddenly we have Rupert Murdoch popping up to take the lead on a really radical idea!

The basic concept is to follow the lead of American Idol - the hugely popular show that over a number of weeks whittled a number of talented youngsters down to a winner who was rewarded with fame and a recording contract.

Murdoch plans to use his FX Network to attempt something similar on the political scene - the show is currently named American Candidate. Some 100 candidates will be introduced over time, votes by phone and Internet will be taken, winners continue to compete until finally - sometime around July 4, 2004 - the summer of the next presidential election - a winner of the contest will be announced - and that person will actually run for President of the United States. Only the rough outline of the idea has been released - this weekend in Daily Variety - so expect more info about details to appear over time.

Why is this so exciting? First, regardless of whether you are amused, enthusiastic or outraged about the idea of ...

- Rupert Murdoch invading the "election" process, or
- Joe or Josephine Anybody running for such a high office with no pre-requisite experience or proven abilities -

... think about how much more popular a TV game show can be than the political conventions. Think how much better known even the losers of this contest are likely to be than the Democratic or Republican candidates. Regardless of your political philosophy, you can probably get excited about a process that might shake up the malaise in politics, that might make the pros stand up and take notice and try to do a better job of selecting candidates, and getting them promoted.

If nothing else, this program - carried thru to its final conclusion - could be part of a new political dialectic that forces change in our political system. (Some of us feel that any system that could not only tolerate, but float to the top, a person like GW Bush is radically due for change.) If politics is all people - then bring politics to where the people are - put it on TV with a personable host and hummable theme song.

Furthermore, this could be one of the forces that gets more people online, and possibly - if the content is handled right - wishing to see more video on-demand - to review previous contestants, etc. And the cheapest way - both for the industry and the consumer - to get specific video-on-demand access today - e.g., within minutes - is via the Internet. The servers are in place - but consumers will want higher speed access for the convenience.

There are a number of technical questions that occur to us. For example, how will this winner get on the ballots of enough states to make the potential contest a real one? Someone will have to bulldog all those rules to be sure that the ultimate pay-off is at least theoretically in reach. The qualifications to run are very straight-forward (and we all know what they are, don't we?), but the mechanics are more than a little boggling. And then, of course, there is the possibility that this person COULD win the election ...

While some people feel Murdoch is in fact the Great Satan of media - you can't knock the guy for giving people what they apparently want to watch. True, Fox News leans toward the Genghis Khan school of politics and political news reporting. While it can be hard to listen to, those bozos (as I affectionately refer to them) know how to stir up controversy. And Murdoch is stubborn - after more than 10 years the broadcast Fox Network is always nipping at the heels of the loser of the Big Three - last year, ABC - and occasionally beats the establishment in weekly ratings.

And what can be wrong in getting people thinking and talking about the politics that overrides their lives and livelihoods? I've said for years politics needs more show-biz to appeal to the masses who are supposed to be its main participants. Bill Clinton gave us a little more of a show than he should have (and the Republicans have kept him a headliner a lot longer than they should have - the GOP needs a new program director). But he was a show. Bush has certainly got our attention - but he's doing it by scaring everybody to death. That's not the way to win a loyal audience - the masses look for comfort, not threats. So Murdoch may have put his finger on something.

In any case, he's going to try. Follow the story as it emerges.


The URL may be temporary - but go to Drudge to follow the story for now ... (Man, what a gruesome picture of Rupert ...)

FYI - here's the URL for FX Network - there's a pop-up with an email address to submit your candidacy when you hit this top page --