TVNZ will partner with YouTube to put Internet users in the box seat at this year's televised election debate.
The two companies will set-up a website where people can submit video questions, the pick of which will be displayed on a giant screen in front of a live television audience and put to party leaders.
TVNZ's head of emerging business, Jason Paris, says the format will be closely modelled on a debate between candidates for the US democratic nomination that was hosted by Google-owned YouTube and CNN last year.
No money will change hands. "This is just a great partnership between the two brands – probably the biggest online brand, behind Google, and New Zealand's biggest public broadcaster."
Depending on the timing of the election, the website is likely to go live at the start of September, several weeks before the debate takes place.
"Both TVNZ and YouTube will be driving people to upload their questions to the site, which will be YouTube and TVNZ-branded.
"Imagine an election site just like a YouTube site, where people will be able to upload questions, and vote for which should be put forward."
Mr Paris says the state-owned broadcaster will retain editorial control over the televised debate, which will be fronted by Mark Sainsbury. "He will be moderating, but the intention is to get as many YouTube questions in there as possible. It is up to political leaders whether they wish to respond or put comments up on the website themselves."
TVNZ hopes the format will make the election more appealing and "get the younger demographic more interested".
"If you look at TVOne, and to some extent One News, we are stronger probably in the older demographic. Bringing in YouTube, it's a complementary brand that extends our brand into that younger demographic."
The first YouTube clip shown to US democratic nominees during the CNN debate invited them to do something "revolutionary" and answer questions directly. Reuters reported the YouTube- submitted questions "were at turns funny, personal and esoteric" and that the format worked, "albeit fitfully". Barack Obama remarked that all the questions reflected cynicism.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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