EchoStar Communications Corp. said it will dedicate a 24-hour channel to information provided by the leading U.S. presidential candidates.
The so-called "Vote 2000 Channel"-which starts Wednesday (Oct. 18) and runs through Election Day-will allow the politicians to speak directly to voters, the company said in a release earlier this month.
The likely recipients of free airtime are Democratic candidate Al Gore, Republican candidate George W. Bush, Green Party hopeful Ralph Nader and Reform Party standard-bearer Pat Buchanan.
"We've invited all the candidates to participate," EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin said two weeks ago. "All four of the campaigns are enthusiastic and are looking into it."
Letters explaining the channel went out Oct. 2, Lumpkin said.
The "Vote 2000 channel" will accept up to seven 28-minute tapes from each candidate. "It won't be all the same programming for 24 hours," Lumpkin said.
Before and after each of the candidates' presentations, Dish Network producer Brian Olsen will identify the channel, which will be available free to all of Dish Network's 4.3 million subscribers.
"I commend EchoStar for its leadership in making this political programming available and its commitment to the fundamental premise that an informed electorate is vital to our democratic society," Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard said in a statement issued the day that EchoStar released the news.
Direct-broadcast satellite rival DirecTV Inc. two weeks ago had no plans to provide free air time to presidential candidates, spokesman Bob Marsocci said.