Penn. Operators, League Aid Voter Turnout

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Cable operators in Pennsylvania will partner with the state's League of Women Voters on a series of cable spots designed to de-mistify the voting process and boost turnout.

Armstrong Cable Services of Meadville, Pa., produced the 30-second spots. There are eight different versions that explain voting's most basic aspects, such as what happens when the curtain closes and how to use voting machines.

The spots emphasize the fact that the poll workers are voters' friends and neighbors who are all there to help.

"They're meant to raise the comfort level of voters," Pennsylvania Cable and Telecommunications Association president Bill Cologie said, adding that something needs to be done to increase turnout.

He noted that the state sponsored a recent special election to fill a state house seat. That election was of vital importance: the winner could change the balance of power from one party to another. As a result, both parties pulled out all of the stops, funding heavy advertising rotations and bringing in outside political heavyweights, including Vice President Al Gore, to lobby for candidates.

A total of 47 percent of the district voted, which was considered a "whopping" result by observers. "Most elections are only one-half of that.Every election, we're appalled by the turnout," Cologie added.

Operators that agree to participate will be asked to run the spots on local-origination channels and on unsold ad avails.

While operators are focusing on voters, the operator-funded Pennsylvania Cable Network will modify its programming to educate the delegates who will be selecting the candidates to send to the voters.

PCN will devote a three-hour primetime block each night to programming about Philadelphia, the Republican National Host City, and its culture.

The block, "Philadelphia 2000," will include local newspaper tours, telecasts of regional radio programs, profiles of prominent residents and convention-center-infrastructure updates.

During the Republican convention, which begins July 31, the coverage will switch to a focus on the Pennsylvania delegation and its host duties.

Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., as previously reported, is pulling out all of the stops as the hometown cable operator. Among other things, CN8: The Comcast Network will produce five hours of convention coverage per night, and Comcast plans to offer its feed to other MSOs. Comcast also owns the convention site, the First Union Center.

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