The only people allowed in the audience at Monday night's presidential debate at Lynn University will be Lynn students, selected by a lottery to sit on risers in the Wold Performing Arts Center.
And all of us lamestream media types will have to shell out some serious cash.
Debates have become quite an expensive proposition, with every news network wanting to set up a live broadcast, affiliate stations from around the world broadcasting from the parking lot, thousands of journalists uploading misinformed blog posts at the same time, and high-bandwidth video and audio clogging the intertubes. What's a tiny college to do?
Charge through the nose, that's what. Each member of the media will have to pay at least $40 to secure a workspace in the Media Filing Center f.k.a. the gym, which comes with two electrical plugs. Picture a garment worker in China, sitting amid rows of long desks.
An upgrade, for standing-room-only access to "Spin Alley," where journalists will swarm after the debate to be willingly spat bullshit at by campaign wranglers, will cost $350 per person (this gets one nowhere near the actual candidates), according to the school's "rate card."
Want to live-blog the event? A WiFi connection will cost $200, but the school warns that access "cannot be guaranteed in all areas." A hard-wired connection is also $200.
TV networks can park a trailer outside for a cool $2,150, which includes 200-amp electrical service. Trucks will have to be corralled in a parking lot a day before the debate for a full sweep by the Secret Service.
That platform you saw Tom Brokaw sitting on after the last debate, right there in the hall? That's $5,500, and with good reason -- the school says it's had to reduce some of the student seating to accommodate network platforms.
A phone line is $225 (including voicemail and 300 long-distance minutes). A cable TV hookup is $260. You can also rent laptops, power strips, copy machines, and -- our favorite -- a 4- to 5-foot silk decorative plant, for $45 (a prop for TV broadcasts). All in all, Lynn University will furnish your every broadcasting desire, for a price.
Cort Furnishings, a worldwide rental company owned by Berkshire Hathaway, is providing goods and services for the debate. We haven't yet found out how they're splitting the proceeds with Lynn -- but the revenue stream will be impressive.
Let's take the 4,000 people in the media center. Each of them will be paying at least $40 -- that's $160,000 in revenue right there.
But you can't blame Lynn for wanting to make a buck: the school says it has invested $5 million in this debate. They're distributing a thick packet to media
with the story of the school, Palm Beach County, and Florida's business-friendly climate. Generous private donors have chipped in to support the cause, as well. The event is a giant ad not just for the school, but for the whole area.
That is, as long as that $200 internet connection doesn't go down.
Update: Yep, this is expensive business. Lynn spokesman Joshua Glanzer explains that these charges are a "charge back." "That is simply what it costs us to supply those services," he says.