With so much focus on the disgraceful performance of ABC debate moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, one important fact has been largely ignored. Brian Stelter of the New York Times blog The Caucus explains:
More than 10 million viewers tuned into Wednesday’s Democratic debate on ABC, making it the most-watched debate of the primary election season.
The debate, the first to air on a weeknight on a broadcast network, attracted an average of 10.7 million viewers between 8 and 10 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research.
Viewership of the debate peaked between 8:30 and 9 p.m. with 11.8 million viewers, topping the “reality” fare of “Deal or No Deal” on NBC and “Big Brother” on CBS. The broadcast faced stiffer competition at 9 p.m. when “American Idol” appeared on Fox and netted 22.7 million viewers. Still, ABC averaged over 10 million viewers in the second hour of the debate.
In other words, despite the complaints in the shrillosphere that there have been too many debates, the American people obviously remain interested in watching them. The American people want to learn more about their candidates for president. That's a good thing. And the fact that some self-important political junkies are growing tired of debates doesn't diminish the importance of the wider American public's continuing interest. Most viewers thought the Los Angeles debate was good for both candidates, and good for the Democratic Party. Part of that was because it was a rare example of a debate that mostly focused on substance. That ABC embarrassed itself, two nights ago, should not be used as an excuse to deny the American people more of such substance. The American people want to tune in. The candidates should give them more opportunities to do so, and debate moderators should give them more substance for their interest and their time.