The media are inherently competitors. They all want each of us to come to their outlet to consume news, entertainment, or whatever kind of programming it is.
It has been very important for us to make sure that every member of the media, whether they are new or old, print or electronic, online or otherwise, knows that what we do can be trusted, that it is neutral, professionally produced, fair to all participants in a given debate, and that there is no thumb on the scale when it comes to selecting moderators or formats that may be seen as giving one participant or another a leg up, an advantage. It is something that we work at very assiduously.
When we pick dates, for instance, we realize that we are going into a time of year that is particularly busy and important for networks. They are starting new programming, doing the baseball playoffs, and starting the football series.
I've learned a lot from reading all of the testimony by your previous witnesses. Clearly, whether it's hockey in Canada or the World Series here, those are very valuable time slots that you are asking commercial entities to give over to carrying a debate in real time. There are inevitably conflicts, and there will be times when you discover that a major television network has a contractual obligation that they cannot avoid. It is interesting that some of our highest viewership has occurred even when one of the major networks had to carry a baseball playoff game because they had that contract with Major League Baseball.
I think the bottom-line answer to your question is that it is extremely important to approach these media entities early to explain the process, to hear their concerns and input, to try to reconcile their concerns with decisions that are made about the debates, and to get key decisions made very early and announced early. We announced the dates and venues for the debates a year ahead of time because, to some extent, certainty helps in terms of all of these other entities doing planning.
Our teamwork with the networks is extremely important to us. In spite of what one of your witnesses who comes from that world said about our being a sham and a racket, I would hope that members of the White House television network pool would say that they think dealing with the commission is straight up and honest. There are no surprises. There are no secrets. We try to hear their concerns and to be as accommodating as it's possible to be.
In the United States anyway, there is no night that isn't someone's sacred cow, and you are going to run into nights that have big commercial value to the networks. That's just a fact, but that is one of the reasons why, in having networks serve as debate sponsors, there is an inherent conflict: they want to be profitable entities. They have the right to want that, but it means that when you're trying to sponsor a debate, there's an inherent conflict built into that.