An Open Letter to CNN on Last Week's Republican Debate

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10:  Journalist Jake Tapper attends the CNN Worldwide All-Star Party At TCA at Langham Hotel on Januar
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10: Journalist Jake Tapper attends the CNN Worldwide All-Star Party At TCA at Langham Hotel on January 10, 2014 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)

Dear CNN,

As a former executive of Turner Broadcasting (parent company of CNN), I am disappointed and concerned by last week's Republican debate which you hosted at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Furthermore, as a businessperson who has spent the last 20 years overseas, building media companies in complicated and heavily censored Asian countries, I worry about the devolution of our American media landscape.

We all know that journalism continues to transition as a result of rapidly changing media consumption habits -- but presidential debates are a key component of the democratic process, and when the format of those debates is reduced to theater, everyone loses.

From Jake Tapper's opening question of, basically, "How does each candidate feel about Donald Trump?" the tone of the debate was dialed to "Spectacle."

In keeping with the race so far, policy issues were allowed to be reduced to mere soundbites.

A moderator's role is to foster discourse by raising relevant topics, to make sure that the debaters are given equal time to comment and rebut, and to serve the audience and the public by doing so.

In the case of last week's debate, it seemed as if the moderators were encouraging the candidates to launch and respond to personal attacks. There was little attention paid to much else. Not to mention the fact that during the debate the network chose not to superimpose the candidates' names on screen as they were speaking, leaving the public to guess the identities of the non-celebrity candidates.

Unabashed bias? Censorship? Along with prompting the candidates to discuss their policy ideas, relevant work experience, and leadership skills, the public should also hold the media accountable for their coverage of the presidential race. Now more than ever.

Given the sheer number of candidates, the celebrity-driven climate in which we live today, the fragmented media environment, and the multitude of complex domestic and global issues that threaten our country, it is of paramount importance that news outlets who are selected to host debates do not pander to the lowest common denominator (i.e., ratings) and, rather, serve the public by pushing candidates to stay on topic.

Please take note.


Peter Brack


Peter Brack is an entrepreneur and executive with a 20 year track record of building global media businesses.

Prior to co-founding two media companies which went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Mr. Brack was Senior Vice President of Time Inc. in Asia, President of Asiaweek Magazine, and Vice President of Turner Broadcasting System in Asia.

He is an active member of the internet and media communities in Los Angeles, New York, and in China. He currently advises and is an active investor in a diverse portfolio of public and private companies.