Cumberland Times-News

November 17, 2012

Let’s begin grading political video clips

Bob Doyle, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Now that the election is over, I have wondered how the campaigns could have been gentler and less abusive.

I suspect that much of the bitterness arose from the very negative television video clips repeated many times during prime viewing times (daylight and evening).

It was curious to see one clip bashing one candidate immediately followed by another clip knocking down the other candidate. In the next national campaign (only two years from now), there will again be huge amounts of money paying for such videos.

What could change this streaming of accusations and misrepresentations?

My solution: Have a respected non partisan organization grade these video clips with grades A, B, C and D.

This is analogous to the ratings on movies: G, PG, PG-13 and R. This rating system has been accepted by the motion picture industry. In fact, some movies are often changed to escape a ‘R’ rating.

Here is a possible set of criteria for grading campaign video clips.

A — for a political video that presents one candidate in a positive light with claims that can be verified easily with a fact – checking service. Also this political video avoids or ignores the opposing candidate(s).

B — for a political video that is positive towards one of the candidates with amorphous statements or claims that probably have nothing to do with this candidate. The best thing about this kind of video is that doesn’t malign the other candidate.

C — for a political video that is mostly negative towards one of the candidates with claims that can be verified with a fact – checking service. The other candidate either is not mentioned or is briefly mentioned as having the opposite characteristics of the vilified candidate.

D — for a political video that is very negative towards one of the candidates with broad general statements that likely would not pass muster with a fact – checking service. The targeted candidate is portrayed as wanting to seize power and destroy American values.

These ‘grades’ could be added as a single letter in one of the lower corners of the screen while the video is being aired. I feel that the makers of these political videos would try to get at least a B rating and to avoid a C or D rating.

The viewers of such videos might reach for the mute button, once they see a C or D rating displayed on the bottom of their screen.

If a television network refused to code their political videos, this network could be accused of pushing abusive material on their viewers.

SKY SIGHTS THIS WEEK: Early this week, the evening moon is at its best for viewing its craters and mountain ranges with binoculars or telescope. Along the moon’s left or upper edge, the sun is rising, lighting up the crater rims and mountain peaks.  

In the eastern evening sky, the bright planet Jupiter is striking, appearing near the bright orange star Aldebaran that marks the eye of Taurus. Jupiter is brighter than Aldebaran and shines steadily.

 In late evening, Orion with his three star belt can be seen below Jupiter. To the left of the belt is the bright pinkish star Betelgeuse; to the right of the belt is the bright white-blue star Rigel.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.