Posted May 22nd, 2018
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Montana Broadcasters Association Debates

The purpose of any political debate is to educate the voters about the positions of the candidates who will likely represent them in an elective position following the election.  In order to have a reasonably in-depth discussion at any debate about the important issues facing the electorate, not all candidates for office can necessarily be included in any debate.  To provide useful information to voters, Montana Broadcasters Association uses commonly accepted criteria for determining the significant candidates who will be included in a debate.

Initially, any candidate must meet certain basic criteria. These include the following:

● Is the person a legally qualified under state law to hold the position to which they are seeking election? 

● Would the candidate be considered a legally qualified candidate under the rules and policies of the FCC?

● For Federal races, has the candidate registered with the FEC? 

● Has the candidate met Montana state election laws and Montana Secretary of State criteria for inclusion on the ballot?

Beyond those basic criteria, the Board will determine which candidates are significant based on additional criteria.  No single criterion is paramount. Collectively, they allow Montana Broadcasters Association’s Board of Directors to make an informed judgment about the significant candidates to be included in a debate. Factors considered by the Board include:

● Has the candidate articulated views on more than a single issue, speaking to all of the principal issues affecting the electorate? (We do not make judgments as to the merits of the candidate's ideas.  Instead, we look simply at whether the candidate has taken positions on the wide range of issues on which a significant candidate should be expected to express their views, and such positions are available in a manner accessible to voters, such as in written statements.)

● If there has been polling on a race, does the candidate show at least 10% support in independent polls of the electorate?

● Is the candidate receiving funding apart from the candidate's own resources?  An evaluation of the relative amount of reported contributions received by the candidates may be considered in evaluating candidate participation. 

● For Federal office, has the candidate filed regular financial disclosure statements with the FEC? 

● Does the candidate have an active campaign? Is there a campaign office, a staff, a phone number? In a major race, are there offices outside of the candidate's home?

● Is the candidate actively engaging in fundraising activities?

● Does the candidate have campaign literature?  Is it being widely distributed? 

● Have other news organizations provided significant coverage of the candidate's campaign?

● For statewide office, does the candidate have an active Statewide campaign with offices and volunteers in more than a single location?

It is also important when the debate occurs in a political cycle. For example, early in a campaign, before primaries have been held, there may be a number of active candidates, any one of whom could be a candidate in the general election. At this stage, a debate may well include some or all of these candidates in order to give citizens the broadest possible access as they form their views. However, later in the campaign, it may make sense to limit the number of candidates in a debate to those who will realistically determine the outcome of the election. At this later point, the greater service is giving citizens the most in-depth information possible.

As the Montana Broadcasters Association, we have the right to decide if a candidate will be invited to participate in a Association sponsored debate based on the MBA established Debate Participation Criteria set forth above.