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Networks image Convention seeks to exploit Web politics

Democrats unveil plans for Internet cameras throughout Staples Center

July 19, 2000
Web posted at: 1:03 p.m. EDT (1703 GMT) WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times) -- Fans of "Survivor," meet the Democratic National Convention, the latest reality-based show coming to TV and the Internet this summer.

The idea is to make viewers feel as though they are part of the action at Staples Center. As many as 10 "360-degree cameras" will broadcast live scenes not only from the convention floor but also from backstage, delegate meetings, and pre-convention parties scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 12 and 13.

"Cameras will be everywhere," convention committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said at a news conference Tuesday before clarifying: "Not the bathrooms."

The TV networks will be provided with feeds from all cameras, but political junkies who watch a live Internet Webcast have the most to gain from the arrangement. With the click of a mouse, they will be able to choose which camera they wish to look through, and they will be able to pose questions to delegates and speakers. Among the potential Internet viewers: an increasingly Web-savvy President Clinton, who is departing after the first day to keep the focus on the nominee, Vice President Al Gore.

"We want to ensure that our convention is the most open and accessible in history," said convention chief executive Lydia Camarillo.

Of course, what viewers will have access to is a carefully scripted convention. (For example, in convention parlance, the people outside Staples Center are always referred to as "demonstrators," never "protesters.") The ubiquity of cameras will force the party to extend its choreographic efforts behind the scenes.

Beyond its benefits as an infomercial for the Democrats, the convention also offers a two-way marketing opportunity for party fund-raisers and the high-tech companies contributing to the broadcast.

The party wants to show off its Internet prowess to younger voters and high-tech executives, whose financial support is being aggressively sought by both major parties. And Internet firms want to demonstrate their wares on a broad stage.

For example, Long Island, N.Y.-based will tabulate delegates' votes over the Internet, in a count that can be monitored by Internet users. Company officials see the convention as an opportunity to prove that they can conduct balloting online, as they did for the Arizona Democratic primary in March.

"We have the party chair from every state," said Bill Taylor, senior vice president for "If you can demonstrate the security of doing that at the Democratic National Convention, why can't we do this somewhere else?"

Many of the services provided by and 10 other technology companies represent in-kind contributions to the convention, which Democratic and company officials declined to detail. Indeed, despite the emphasis on access, many other parts of the show remained under wraps.

Even a Tuesday news conference, conducted exclusively on the Web as a show of groundbreaking openness, yielded few details.

The questions --183 were received over the Internet -- were culled by Democratic staffers, who chose about 30 to pass along to McAuliffe and Camarillo for answers during the 30-minute conference. The rest were answered later by staffers via e-mail.


Wednesday, July 19, 2000



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