Skip to main content

Debate Policy

Kansas City PBS has a long tradition of producing programs that allow for the free exchange of ideas and the inclusion of diverse points of view.

During election years, we are committed to making citizens better informed about the choices they will make at the ballot box. While we seek to include the broadest possible range of ideas and issues, presenting every point of view may sometimes detract from our station’s overarching goal of providing useful and meaningful information to the public.

We recognize that money should not determine a candidate’s ability to communicate his or her message on television. We do, however, believe a candidate should demonstrate at least some level of public support to warrant inclusion in station-produced debates.

Therefore, we require a candidate to demonstrate that he or she has at least 7 percent public support in one independently conducted public opinion poll at least two weeks prior to the debate’s broadcast. We define “independent” as a poll not conducted by the candidate, his or her campaign, political party or any interest group that has a personal stake in the outcome of the election.

Our debate policy also requires that the candidate show evidence of an active campaign by meeting three of the five criteria specified below:

  • File campaign finance report detailing contributions from 20 individuals unrelated to the candidate or candidate’s family
  • Have a candidate website detailing biography and issues
  • Have a minimum of 25 yard signs promoting candidacy in 25 different locations in areas that candidate would serve
  • Demonstrate participation in other candidate forums, not just televised debates
  • Demonstrate community engagement by hosting 12 campaign-related events, news conferences or neighborhood association meetings

If there is no polling in the race, the candidate will only be expected to meet three of the above criteria for inclusion in Kansas City PBS-organized debates.

Our position is guided by rulings of the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Elections Commission and the federal courts. These rulings make it clear that a broadcaster has the editorial discretion to invite only some legally qualified candidates to participate in a candidate debate, so long as the decision is based on the broadcaster’s “good-faith news judgment” and on reasonable, pre-established objective criteria, such as independent polling data.

Our policy is far more lenient than the one adopted by the Presidential Debate Commission, which requires 15 percent support in five independent polls prior to a debate for a candidate’s inclusion.