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Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - TIME.com

http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2021078,00.html

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Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - TIME.com
It's now common knowledge that without the nation's first televised debate — fifty years ago Sunday — Kennedy would never have been president.

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The first televised debate

The first televised debate

The first televised debate from 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon helped Kennedy become more popular, only because of his good looks, while Nixon, just recovered from a recent hospitalization, lost points. 

The impact of the television could be easily seen then, as the people who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won, while the ones watching TV thought Kennedy had.

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The influence of TV on politics

Ever since the first televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon, back in 1960, television has been playing an essential role in influencing people's political choices. After sixteen years of break, starting with 1976, televised debates have become standard practice in politics. 

What is maybe the most interesting about how television influenced politics is the fact that individuals, as well as parties, are now taking into account additional factors when judging the candidates, such as looks and the ability to debate.

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Debates have a major impact

Debates have a major impact

There’s a reason why we place such importance on debates: They show us things about candidates that other venues do not, but they may also overwhelm everything else we know about the candidate.

1960 — Kennedy v. Nixon

The first televised presidential debate in U.S. history may be the most consequential.

Political mythology holds that Americans who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon was better, while those who watched it on television thought Kennedy was better.

1976 — Carter v. Ford

A moment that may have impacted the final result was when Ford stumbled over a question during their second debate regarding Poland, which he insisted was not under "Soviet domination." It was, and Ford had to retract his statement, contributing to the view that he was in over his head.

Radio transformed American politics

Radio transformed American politics

For centuries, people had read politicians' words. On Nov. 2, 1920, the first broadcast from a licensed radio station was broadcasting the results of that year's presidential electi...

The medium is the message

In 1964, media theorist Marshall McLuhan said that "the medium is the message," meaning that the kind of medium through which a message is transmitted matters more than its content.

For centuries, the primary medium for mass political news was the printed word. Political candidates were expected to participate in a series of debates that were attended by thousands, but millions followed the debates through newspaper accounts. By the 1930s, politicians could address citizens directly through radio. McLuhan described the radio as a "hot" medium because speeches could incite passions.

Politics and media: television takes over

Once television arrived, the political strategy shifted toward using entertainment to get the attention of voters.

In the 1952 election, the Eisenhower campaign started working with ad agencies and actors to create the candidate's TV personality. An enhanced image became the key to political power.