The interviews are aired in their entirety; Comcast does not edit the content."This is an important platform for us, and the fact that the candidates take it seriously also is an acknowledgment to us that this is a good thing to do," Doyle said. Ehrlich declined to have a reporter present during his taping. Murphy, a former television producer and partner at Democracy Group, a political consulting firm in Annapolis, said the service could be helpful to voters, but he called the five-minute interview format "boring" and said it won't give candidates the chance to discuss issues of their choosing.
The cable company invited almost 800 candidates to participate, and about 75 percent chose to participate, including O'Malley and Republican Gov. Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political science professor, said the segments are an improvement over the 30- and 60-second paid political ads aired on television.
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Some undecided voters might find the interviews useful, but those voters are less likely to seek out the information, he said."The drawback is that the members of the public will probably listen only to the statement of the candidates that they favor," Crenson said.
"So it'll be a mechanism for reinforcing pre-existing opinions."On a recent afternoon at Comcast's White Marsh studio, with screens that read "The Comcast Network" as a backdrop, a stream of political candidates appeared for interviews with Comcast Newsmakers host Tony Hill.
All candidates were asked basically the same questions, and none was given the questions in advance, said Noah Kodeck, Comcast's director of network production.
Among those in the studio that day was Ehrlich's running mate, Kristen Cox."Any time we can get our message out, we think it's great," Cox said after the taping.
Baltimore viewers watched more than 40 million shows from the beginning of this year through July, 28 million more than in the corresponding period a year earlier, according to the most recent numbers available from Comcast.
Comcast said it is the first cable company to offer programming such as Candidates on Demand, which it began in Colorado during the 2004 Senate race.
Others, mindful of time-squeezed constituents, said Candidates on Demand is one way to get their message out for voters to view at their convenience."I know how busy people are," said Rick Martel, a Republican running for the state Senate in District 12, which is split between Baltimore and Howard counties.
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The video component of campaigning has taken off with the popularity of Web sites such as video-sharing You Tube.com, said Joe Trippi, author of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and former campaign manager for Howard Dean, whose adept use of the Internet made him an early front-runner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
This year, the Virginia Senate race grabbed national attention after a video of Republican Sen.
And then by the time they got the information and the call to duty, it was already a week old," O'Malley said in an interview after his taping last week for Candidates on Demand."So the Internet's been a huge tool, webcasting's a huge tool, e-mail chains, e-mail lists are a huge tool."Comcast's Doyle sees Candidates on Demand as a way to encourage citizens to vote and TO educate them about the candidates.