- - Monday, October 31, 2011

No more presidential debates for PBS anchor Jim Lehrer

Jim Lehrer says to keep the presidential debates coming, just don’t ask him to moderate any more.

The veteran PBS anchor, now in semi-retirement at 77, said he is through after moderating 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2008, the Associated Press reports. That is one of the reasons he has written a book, “Tension City: My View From the Middle Seat” (Random House), an account of the debates with which he has been involved that gives his perspective and those of the candidates.

Television networks have announced plans for at least 12 more debates in the coming months. Some viewers and participants, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, may think there are too many debates. Not Mr. Lehrer.

“We’re probably going to have a debate with everybody underwater hanging by their thumbs,” Mr. Lehrer said. “They’ve tried everything. I think that’s great.”

The events have been potent programming for TV networks this fall. Four of the seven Republican candidates’ forums this year have attracted more than 5 million viewers, the Nielsen Co. said. By contrast, of the 16 Republican and Democratic debates before November 2007, only one had more than 3 million viewers.

The current campaign also illustrates how influential debates are. Mr. Perry, for example, sank like a stone in opinion polls after a series of lackluster showings.

Besides Mr. Lehrer’s experiences, the book includes interviews with all but one president and general election candidate since 1976. Mr. Lehrer did the interviews as an oral history project for the Commission on Presidential Debates, enabling him to capture President Reagan’s thoughts before the onset of Alzheimer’s. Al Gore is the lone exception; Mr. Lehrer said he figures the 2000 disputed election is still too raw for him.

His advice to future moderators is to “spend a lot of time in front of the mirror saying, ‘This is not about me, this is not about the moderator, this is about the candidates,’” he said. “Get out of the way whenever you possibly can. Facilitate the debate. That’s what you’re there to do.”

He is not interested in any more debate invitations for himself.

“Enough is enough, you know?”

Amazon, Netflix ink deals with ABC, Walt Disney

Amazon and Netflix announced separate deals Monday to stream television shows from the Walt Disney Co. and ABC TV network, Agence France-Presse reports.

Amazon, which offers unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows to Amazon Prime members, said the agreement with Disney-ABC Television Group includes rights to shows from ABC Studios, the Disney Channel, ABC Family and Marvel.

It includes such ABC TV hits as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost,” Disney’s animated series “Phineas & Ferb” and Marvel’s “Spider-Man.”

Story Continues →