Politics & Government

SC Democratic Party under fire after barring news outlets from airing convention live

SC Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison speaks during a 2015 party event.
SC Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison speaks during a 2015 party event. jblake@thestate.com

Major broadcast news networks have submitted complaints after being barred from airing live footage of the South Carolina Democratic Convention being held in Columbia Saturday.

State Democratic Party officials emailed media outlets to tell them that MSNBC was given the exclusive broadcast rights to the convention, placing a three hour embargo on all other footage.

S.C. Democratic Party Chair Trav Robertson confirmed the embargo, first reported by the Washington Examiner on Tuesday, to The State, saying Wednesday that the decision came after the party reached out to multiple news outlets and requested they broadcast remarks from all the candidates.

The ban on broadcast includes social media live streams, as the Examiner reported.

But Wednesday, after complaints to the party, S.C. Educational Television announced it would live stream the convention Saturday on SCETV’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, the Greenville News reported and SCETV confirmed.

The decision to limit who can broadcast the convention live has led to a barrage of criticism on social media from other reporters and political observers. The convention will mark one of the largest gatherings of presidential contenders so far this election season with 22 coming into Columbia over the weekend.

Robertson said MSNBC was the outlet that agreed to their terms, though during a similar event in Iowa, C-SPAN broadcast the entirety of 19 presidential contenders’ comments. Robertson declined to comment on complaints about the embargo from C-SPAN.

Multiple news outlets, including CNN, C-SPAN and Fox News have spoken out against the unusual move, the Hill reported. But defending the party’s decision, Robertson said that even though they are not allowed to live stream the event, CNN and Fox have been allowed to bring multiple reporters to the convention: eight and four respectively.

Though the party has put a three hour embargo in place on videos from inside the convention, Robertson said there is no way he could stop reporters from posting clips from the event online.

Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.