PBS NewsHour and Microsoft Launch WatchTheDebates.org

WASHINGTON, DC (September 23, 2016) — To mark the start of the 2016 general election debates, PBS NewsHour and Microsoft have partnered to launch WatchTheDebates.org, an interactive civic education and voter engagement site that provides access to every general election debate since 1960. WatchTheDebates allows visitors the ability to screen entire debates and highlights, track specific issues over the years, and interact with the content using online voting tools from Microsoft Pulse. This platform enhances an existing civic education partnership between PBS and the Commission on Presidential Debates.

“Fifty-six years ago, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon participated in the first televised general election debate. The black and white footage of these historic conversations provides the first chapter in the wonderful tutorial that the PBS NewsHour and Microsoft have crafted,” said Janet Brown, Executive Director of the Commission for Presidential Debates. “WatchTheDebates.org invites those new to presidential debates and those who have watched them for many cycles to learn about candidates and issues, connect presidential elections over time, and participate in an online conversation via Microsoft Pulse. We are grateful to PBS NewsHour and Microsoft for using modern technology to bring television history to the 2016 debates.”

Since the first televised presidential debate in 1960, these events have been integral to the American democratic process and the leading forum for serious discussion of current affairs.Today, for the first time, these debates are being organized and made available in one place for the American public in an online forum.

“As Americans prepare to sit down and watch this year’s historic presidential debates, I’m delighted that the PBS NewsHour can offer the public a chance to dive in and explore the many fascinating moments of past presidential debates,” said Sara Just, PBS NewsHour Executive Producer and WETA SVP. “These are seminal moments in U.S. history and an important step in our democratic process and now available as an interactive resource from public media for all to experience.”

Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President for Technology and Civic Engagement at Microsoft, added, “Microsoft believes technology has great potential to improve citizens’ engagement in the democratic process. We are excited to have helped create WatchTheDebates.org to provide a platform for citizens to become more informed about past and present presidential debates and relevant information around key issues.”  

WatchTheDebates.org gives access to an array of content from PBS NewsHour and engagement tools from Microsoft, including:

  • Livestreams of the four 2016 general election debates
  • Full debate footage from 39 previously broadcast debates
  • Online rating and audience engagement of previous and this year’s debates, powered by Microsoft Pulse
  • Highlight reels of memorable moments from all televised debates from 1960-2016
  • Issue-based reels looking at the evolution of key policy and political issues through the years

About the Commission on Presidential Debates                                                        

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

About the PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour is seen by over four million weekly viewers and is also available online, via public radio in select markets, and via podcast. PBS NewsHour is a production of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with WNET in New York. Major funding for PBS NewsHour is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Major corporate funding is provided by BNSF, Lincoln Financial Group, and XQ Institute, with additional support from Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, National Science Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Friends of the NewsHour and others. More information on PBS NewsHour is available at www.pbs.org/newshour. On social media, visit NewsHour on Facebook or follow @NewsHour on Twitter.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.


Media Contact: Nick Massella

Director of Audience Engagement and Communications, PBS NewsHour



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Film footage of the Kennedy-Nixon debate was contributed by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. To learn more, visit www.jfklbrary.org. For additional electronic resources for campaigns and elections, visit www.jfklibrary.org/campaignresources.

Photos courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, George Bush Presidential Library and Museum and