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YouTube & CNN line up presidential debates

Web 2.0 allows net users to question candidates

In a nod to the increasingly popular Web 2.0 world, CNN and YouTube said that upcoming Democratic and Republican presidential debates will offer "transparency" to voters by allowing anyone to submit a question on video that could be posed to a candidate.

In addition to allowing anyone to submit a question via video to YouTube, the popular social-networking site will also allow users to submit videos responding to and rating candidates' answers. The Democratic debate takes place July 23 in Charleston, South Carolina; the Republican debate will be on September 17 in a location yet to be announced.

"I think these debates represent a giant leap forward in the way that news organisations cover elections ... that I think will change the way that elections will be covered into the future," said Jonathan Klein, president of CNN. "We have been really dedicated to that, making sure that we are engaging viewers and voters in every way we possibly can and reflecting the dramatic ways that politics itself has changed. It didn't make sense to keep covering politics in the same old way."

Chad Hurley, CEO and co-founder of YouTube, said these debates will differ from others where voters were allowed to ask candidates questions because those debates required voters to appear in person at the event. "We are bringing a level of authenticity to politics, and it is bringing transparency and access to voters in a new way," he said. "YouTube will be extending the life of the debates beyond a single night by empowering users and voters to re-watch and respond to debate footage."

Both CNN and YouTube declined to provide details of the financial arrangements between them for the debates.

The candidates will hear questions from the videos that will be displayed on a flat-panel screen on the debate stage, which will also show a Google Earth animation ad to show where the person who submitted the question is located, said David Bohrman, CNN's senior vice president and D.C. bureau chief.

Each video with a question submitted to YouTube can run no longer than 30 seconds, he said. CNN, which will be responsible for picking which questions get asked, plans to use between 20 and 30 questions, he said.


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