Brown Eschews 8-Second Sound Bites : Media: His presidential campaign strategy relies on cable TV and radio talk shows for extended, unfiltered appearances.


Most politicians would gladly accept the opportunity to appear on any of the three network morning talk shows, but not former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.

Brown was invited to join the other Democratic presidential hopefuls last Thursday on "Today" as NBC had hoped to present the first joint appearance of all six major candidates. But Brown told the network he wanted to be the only guest and requested a "significant" amount of time--a request NBC found unacceptable.

It was another example of Brown's rejection of conventional media in the six weeks since he sent a 10-page letter to supporters and reporters Sept. 3 making it known that he would explore a third bid for the Democratic nomination.

Instead, Brown is following a strategy that Patrick Caddell, who has advised Brown, calls "underground communication," relying on cable television and radio talk shows instead of conventional broadcast television appearances and interviews with the print press. He has opted for forums where he gets at least half an hour to put his ideas across directly to the public.

"I am trying to help the press get over its preoccupation with eight-second sound bites that distort and obscure what people say," Brown said last month. "The overall process is so debased you have to try to take it to a higher level."

When Brown, 53, officially announces his candidacy today at Philadelphia's Independence Hall, he'll have another chance to convey his message without it being subject to editing. Cable News Network and C-SPAN 2 are scheduled to air the speech live at 9 a.m.

While Tom Hannon, CNN's director of political coverage, said that his network reserves its right to cut away from Brown to analysis by Jack Germond and David Broder or to coverage of other news events, C-SPAN 2 will carry the complete address. C-SPAN, which is received in more homes than C-SPAN 2, will also carry the speech on a delayed basis at 5 p.m.

"Our philosophy is to always put things on in their entirety," said Steve Scully, C-SPAN's political editor.

The network has provided similar coverage for the announcements of other Democratic candidates, "catering to political junkies who want to see the whole thing," Scully said.

C-SPAN has provided Brown some of his most extensive exposure in the campaign to date. It has televised several of his speeches, including one Friday at American University, and last month was permitted by Brown to cover a fund-raising event at his home from which other media members were barred.

Cable TV was the forum Brown chose for his first interview after he made his presidential intentions known, appearing on a one-hour interview program on Century Cable in Los Angeles, received by 160,000 subscribers on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Brown also joined sports reporter Frank Deford on CNBC's "Talk Live" on Oct. 5.

Brown spokesman Joe Costello declined Friday to expand upon the reasons for Brown's strategy or to say whether he would continue this tack after becoming an official candidate today.

While cable allows Brown more opportunity to deliver an unfiltered message, it also reaches far fewer people. Cable is received in about 60% of the nation's households and gets a fraction of the viewers that broadcast television does.

Susan Estrich, who managed the losing 1988 presidential campaign of then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, is skeptical about Brown's decision to avoid broadcast television and newspapers.

"I think it's very dangerous to underestimate the impact of newspapers and television stations, particularly if you're not going to be on TV any other way," Estrich said, referring to the expected problems Brown will have in purchasing television commercial time because of his decision to place a $100 limit on contributions, one-tenth the amount permitted by federal law.

On the other hand, she said, the strategy fits with his fund-raising limit.

"The reason you do interviews with the national press this far out is to raise money," Estrich said. "I suppose if he doesn't have to raise $1,000 a person, he doesn't have to play to the press."

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