ABC News won’t pay to broadcast debates

Michael Calderone

The Cutline looked Wednesday at an idea kicking around the Republican National Committee to start sanctioning official primary debates and then sell the broadcast rights to networks.

NBC News said yesterday that the "selling of news events such as debates is unacceptable," and ABC News told The Cutline today that the network would be similarly opposed to such a proposal.

"ABC News does not and would not pay to broadcast news events, that includes political debates," a spokesman said in a statement to the Cutline.

In addition to networks being less than pleased by the idea, there are other reasons it looks unlikely the RNC could pull this off.

Typically, network executives don't deal with the RNC (or their national Democratic counterparts) when hosting primary debates. Instead, they plan those political events -- in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- with local newspapers and television affiliates, the state parties, and presidential campaigns themselves.

And if that's not enough, the RNC could also run afoul of campaign finance law in trying profit off selling television rights for campaign events.

(Republican debate at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2008. (AP /Mark Terrell)