The South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP) has decided to give liberal network MSNBC exclusive rights to air live coverage of the state’s 2019 Democratic convention.
The event will feature 21 of the party’s 24 presidential hopefuls, including high-profile candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.
Other networks are permitted to bring cameras to the event, but are prohibited from broadcasting until three hours after the convention ends. The embargo includes live-streaming through social media.
According to inside sources, MSNBC did not pay for exclusive rights but will be covering production costs.
“We spoke to several networks about this, and MSNBC was the network that decided they wanted to move forward,” says SCDP Chair Trav Robertson. “The fact is that the Joy Reid Show as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton Show have a significantly higher African-American viewership or audience, so it seemed to be a fit for this specific convention.”
Fox News and CNN immediately filed complaints.
“This leaves a bad taste in our mouths,” says Steve Scully, a political editor at C-SPAN. “Our disappointment is that we intended to cover this, we had laid the groundwork and started to promote it. It’s disappointing all the way around. We hope this isn’t an ongoing pattern.”
MSNBC might decide to skip over remarks from lesser-known candidates, added Scully. “They’re shooting themselves in the foot.”
In addition, the embargo is likely to affect future coverage of Democratic events in South Carolina.
“We will not be coming, absolutely not…I also told them in no uncertain terms you better think long and hard before you reach out to us to cover something else,” continued Scully. “We will deal with 49 other state Democratic Parties. It’s ridiculous. It’s an open event.”
Conservative strategist Chris Barron mocked the embargo, suggesting it was intended to cover up Democratic candidates’ radical comments.
“Frankly, if I were the Democratic Party, I would want to limit access to the convention, too. Nothing will turn off critical swing voters like a look at the radicals firmly in charge of the Democratic Party.”
This is an unprecedented effort to control the narrative of a key political event. Since when does a political party pick and chose which organizations are allowed to cover their events?
Maybe Barron is right, and the Dems want the ability to keep radical comments out of the news; or maybe Scully is right, and the network will intentionally cut out candidates the DNC doesn’t like.
Either way, the decision is not in line with Democrats’ longstanding cooperation with the media and is sure to cause fights with other networks (not to mention MSNBC doesn’t have the biggest audience).