Current TV to broadcast tweets during debates

Twitter updates will flash onscreen during McCain vs. Obama

NEW YORK -- Current TV is handing over feedback on the upcoming presidential debates to those who make up so much of the network's programming: its audience.

During the debates, the network bent on viewer-created content will broadcast Twitter messages -- or "tweets" -- from viewers. In close to real time, Current will display comments on the screen while John McCain and Barack Obama face off.

It's an all the more interesting new kind of interactivity in political discourse given that Current was co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore. Joel Hyatt, CEO of Current, said the technique -- dubbed "Hack the Debate" -- was not Gore's idea, but he and Gore both share a dim view of post-debate punditry.

"He certainly shares the belief that the punditry aspect of the process has not been enriching to American democracy," Hyatt said. "We're trying to empower young adults to participate in the process, to have their voice heard, to join the conversation."

Hyatt lamented the limiting nature of debate coverage, populated by experts with axes to grind and predictable partisan arguments to make: "We want our audiences to take over the process," he said.

Comments will be filtered, but Hyatt said they will be filtered only to suit broadcast standards.

The first presidential debate is planned for Sept. 26, with two more debates and a vice presidential debate to follow. Current, partnering with Twitter, will have a similar live stream on its Web site,

Launched in 2005, Current TV devotes much of its programming to viewer-created short programs called "pods." It last year won an Emmy for best interactive television service.