Obama To Take Fireside Chats Online

Dennis Faas's picture

Barack Obama recently published a YouTube video response to George Bush's weekly Presidential address to the nation. It appears Obama will use the video-sharing site as a regular means of communication once he enters the White House.

Each week, President Bush, like all holders of office, delivers an official address to the United States public via the radio. The opposition party traditionally delivers an official response, usually with a different speaker each week.

Obama delivered the Democratic response in the usual audio format, but his organization also filmed the response, which now appears both on YouTube and change.gov, the official website Obama is using until he takes office in January.

A day after the video went online the clip had just over 150,000 views. That's a marked improvement on previous clips from the Obama camp during the Presidential campaign which averaged around 60,000 views each. (Source: latimes.com)

It appears that Obama will then launch a dedicated White House channel on YouTube. This will include the weekly Presidential addresses plus video interviews and question and answer sessions.

George Bush has not televised his weekly addresses, though the White House website does carry video of his press briefings along with text-based online chats.

The weekly addresses stem from the so-called 'fireside chats', a series of radio broadcasts which Franklin Delano Roosevelt made as president during the Great Depression and the Second World War. They were considered a successful way of building a trusting relationship between the state and wider society.

Political campaigners point out that the YouTube clips, while increasing convenience for viewers, don't necessarily increase transparency. One told the Washington Post "it's still a controlled, one-way message. But it creates the aura of a much more accessible presidency." (Source: washingtonpost.com)

The Obama clip has the comments option switched off. That's understandable given some of the responses political clips get on YouTube, but it somewhat undermines the idea of engaging with the public.

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