YouTube, CNN vote 'yes' on UGC

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News network CNN, a division of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a Time Warner company, and Google's online video community YouTube have teamed up to combine user-generated content and the presidential debates, bringing voters across the country closer to the candidates.

For the first time in presidential-debate history, the live forum that is running on CNN will feature video questions submitted from YouTube users, as a part of YouTube's YouChoose '08 campaign. CNN's Anderson Cooper will moderate the two-hour debates, asking the YouTube member questions and posing follow-up questions. Both the Democratic debate and the Republican debate will run in this format.

"I think these debates represent a giant leap forward in the way that news organizations cover elections," said Jonathan Klein, president of CNN.

The Democratic debate, the first Democratic National Committee-sanctioned presidential forum of the 2008 election cycle, will be held in Charleston, SC on July 23 and will air live on CNN. The Republican presidential forum is on Sept 17 in Florida.

YouTube users can submit questions at www.youtube.com/debates. Select YouTube users will be among the live audience.

YouTube You Choose '08 is a centralized hub of candidate-created channels that feature campaign videos, speeches, informal chats, behind-the-scenes footage and more. The platform is aimed at engaging voters in dialogue with candidates and each other through the use of community features such as video responses, text comments and ratings. Presidential candidates Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) are among those who are using the platform.

"The YouChoose '08 program, including the CNN YouTube debatesŠeducate and connect voters and candidates through the power of online video," said Chad Hurley, CEO/co-founder of YouTube, in a press call. "And we are doing this because we are bringing a level of authenticity to politics and it is bringing transparency and access to voters in a new way." In addition to the live airing on CNN, the debates will appear on CNN's multiple platforms. The events will be simulcast on CNN.com, CNN International, CNN en Español, CNN Radio and CNN Airport Network. CNN.com's Election Center, available at www.CNN.com/election, also will host coverage and analysis of the debates, including behind-the-scenes reports, podcasts and on-demand video, including the entire debates in streaming and downloadable formats. The broadcast of the debates also will be made available to all CNN Radio affiliates worldwide, with special coverage available on Headline News and to CNN Newsource affiliates.

Currently YouTube has 17 presidential candidates on YouChoose, where the candidates can update profiles and communicate with voters directly.

"They are on YouTube because they see the need to participate and be part of the community and the community is responding," Mr. Hurley said. "YouTube will be extending the live of the debates beyond a single night by empowering users and voters to rewatch and respond to debate footage. Using our community features, they will be able to post video responses, comments and ratings."

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