In 2000, USA Talk Network ("USA-TN") and Colorado Public Television KBDI-TV Channel 12 ("KBDI") teamed up to develop and implement a non-partisan project to begin the process of changing the relationship between television and politics in America . The effort was funded, in part, thanks to the largesse of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a number of individuals and private companies. With the specific objective of mitigating the current domination of paid 30-second advertisement "spots" on television, USA-TN and KBDI-TV Channel 12 developed a then record-setting 13 full hours of programming dedicated to the 2000 General Election.
The series was broadcast in Prime Time and gave voters the opportunity to see candidates and ballot issue spokespersons (both proponents and opponents) in unrehearsed settings, arguing their positions and answering tough questions. The response was overwhelming positive and showed television could be used to (a) honestly inform the Public in a detailed manner and (b) blunt the effect of paid television advertising (i.e., commercial, political spots).
In addition to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, "Election 2000" was supported by The Denver Post , Johnson Communities (a national homebuilder), and The Colorado Statesman, among many others. Through The Denver Post , as part of an innovative partnership, programs also were offered to the electorate via the Internet on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week basis.
One of the key principles of the effort was to develop a non-coercive, non-governmental, non-partisan approach to changing American politics. The Project avoided any element which had a "must carry" requirement or which imposed a program or time quota on any station. Instead, it utilized the principle that public broadcasting stations have unique relationships with their individual communities, broadcast only in their local communities (i.e., unlike national networks which typically provide the same program to all recipients across the country), and are perceived by the Public as having a non-partisan, educational role. The 2000 effort was Stage I of that process.
The next step in the process (Stage II) was to use the 2000 experiment as a national model for 2002. The purposes of Stage II are to create "Election 2002" to further the principles and objectives of the Election 2000 model, including the following.
The goal for "Election 2002" was to have two-way communication in Calendar Year 2002 with approximately 90% of the public broadcasting stations, with the expectation that up to 10% will adopt in 2002 some form of programming similar to the prototype refined for " Election 2002 ."
The goal for "Election 2004" will be to increase that participation rate to more than 25%. Eventually, it is hoped a majority of public broadcasting stations will participate in some form of programming similar to the "Election 2002" and the " Election 2004 " models. It is anticipated that the initial effort would end in 2004.To begin the process for "Election 2002," KBDI-TV Channel 12 -- Colorado Public Television and USA Talk Network have agreed to almost double their Prime Time programming commitment to the project from 13 hours in 2000 to as many as 25 hours in 2002.