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Ask MPR Mailbag

September 19, 2006

Why aren't Green Party candidates in debates?

Why is Minnesota Public Radio discriminating against the Green Party candidates for office this year? The "debate" for the 5th District Congressional seat only omitted one candidate that will be on the ballot this year for that race, Jay Pond the Green Party endorsed candidate. Yet on the very same day the Almanac show on TPT2 (Public Television) will have all four candidates on to debate. This makes MPR look prejudiced against Green Party candidates. It also appears that MPR's concern with feedback and "your voice" is a sham. Why prevent only one candidate from the debate? Will you continue this institutional discrimination against Green Party candidates when it comes to the Attorney General "debate" and the State Auditor "debate?" Note that the Green Party candidate for State Auditor was included in the debate last week and the Green Party candidate for Attorney General will also be on the debate tonight on Almanac.

Wisconsin Public Radio includes Green Party candidates in debates why does MPR refuse to do so? Public Radio means public radio, not just radio for major party candidates. I expect some of this discrimination from corporate media but not from public radio.

By including all the candidates in a race (that are on the ballot) except one you have failed to fully inform your listeners. You are also failing our democracy! I want a real answer to my question of discrimination. Why is MPR the only major organization to discriminate against Green Party candidates? Keep in mind that you are the only public broadcasting group in this area to be engaging in this immoral and undemocratic practice.

It is not too late to change this discriminatory practice. I sincerely hope that your response to my question is more thoughtful than just "The Green Party is a minor party." I want to know who actually set this policy. Was it a board of directors? Where/whom made this discriminatory decision? For a station that claims "award winning news coverage" you should really rethink the policy of omitting only one candidate from access to the debates! This is something Fox News would do...not Minnesota Public Radio!

I look forward to a response regarding my questions. Thank you.

Minneapolis, MN

Dear Dave, as you correctly guessed, the Green Party candidates were excluded from the MPR debates because it is our policy -- and has been our policy for a number of years -- that we only invite candidates from the major parties. Currently, the major parties are the Republicans, the DFL, and Independence Party. A party must garner at least 5% of the vote for any statewide office in the last election cycle in order to qualify as a major party.

The Greens benefited from this policy in the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, when they enjoyed major-party status and their candidates were invited to MPR debates. To my knowledge no one from the Green Party complained at the time that candidates from the Consititution Party, Communist Party, Socialist Workers Party or New Union Party were kept out of the 2002 and 2004 debates. And all of these parties field candidates that appear on the ballot for statewide office.

If the Greens wish to participate in the MPR debates for 2008, they will need to win at least five votes out of every hundred cast in a statewide election this November. We don't feel that's an unreasonable standard to meet.

As to TPT and Wisconsin Public Radio: they are free to set their own standards. But we believe our own standard is fair.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services