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Simple Format for Presidential Debates Urged

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four television networks on Wednesday jointly proposed a new and much simpler format for presidential debates next fall, which they said is designed to make the 21-year-old institution a more honest and open exchange between candidates.

The plan would eliminate live audiences, candidate-selected panels of questioners, outside funding and commercial interruptions, and it would require the candidates instead to question each other.

The immediate reaction from the Democratic National Committee and the League of Women Voters was tentative but positive. The Republican National Committee was more noncommittal. The Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan group that sponsored the two presidential debates and one vice presidential debate in 1988, was harshly negative.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Republican and Democratic nominees to agree on whether to hold debates and under which format.

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Under the plan proposed by ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate would be held, one every other week, beginning Sept. 15. Each would be 90 minutes long, would have a single moderator and would be aired simultaneously on the four networks as well as any other stations that wanted it.


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