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Blacked Out of the Debate 

I recently sent this e-mail to NBC, parent company of MSNBC: I have a philosophical issue concerning your showing of the recent Democratic presidential debate.

In my home town, Bend, Oregon, the only way to watch this debate was to subscribe to a premium cable package. This seems to be counter to the way democracy is intended to work.

I contacted my local cable affiliate, Bend Broadband, and was told that for $5 I could add a package which would include MSNBC. I responded, "While I will consider adding the premium package, I believe you have a problem which needs to be addressed. Presently, an issue with the presidential debates is that the average viewer has been college-educated, thus leaving out many. Adding a cost to see the debates will only aggravate this issue. You need to be expanding, not shrinking, your audience for this type of presentation. I think it would be to your advantage to review this issue. Certainly, you have the ability to unlock this channel, or another one, during a single presentation."

The local cable company explained that it was a problem too large for them to solve. BendBroadband's vice president, John Farwell, explained, "We understand that with more and more debates, the programs are moving between several networks with some being on MSNBC. However unfortunately we do not have the option of simply 'opening up the channel' to everyone for a given show. This would have to come from the network (owned by NBC) and of course would require technical manipulations and customer communication each time it occurred - a sizable effort if NBC wanted it to happen, and it would of course not be something they would do for BendBroadband alone."

NBC needs to review the present policy. If a solution cannot be found, then I propose that MSNBC refrain from covering any future debates and leave this important job to more public access-friendly networks.

Bob Almquist, Bend

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