Thursday’s debate between Republican candidates for President is must see TV. But if you’re a cordcutter who doesn’t subscribe to traditional TV, you’re sadly out of luck. The highly anticipated debate is co-hosted by Facebook, but the only legal way to watch it live is on Fox News.

It almost seems like a no-brainer that a company like Facebook would provide a streaming option for the growing segment of media consumers who don’t subscribe to traditional cable packages. But that’s apparently too much to ask for here in the second decade of the 21st century.

What exactly is Facebook offering as a co-host of this debate? Interaction in the form of the second-screen strategy. They’re imagining that viewers at home will log in to Facebook to debate the issues and submit questions, all while watching their TV screens for the real action. It’s a move that assumes anyone interested in this early stage debate would already be a subscriber to Fox News. And it’s a move which may have actually been a safe assumption in a pre-Trump world. But I, for one, can no longer remember a pre-Trump world.

Facebook is encouraging users to “interact” with the debate by submitting questions for the candidates in words and video. There’s also an option to submit a picture and “show in one photo what you think needs to change in America.” Fox News also wants Facebook users to submit photos showing “how the economy has impacted your family.” (This should be interesting.) But if you’re hoping to see your question or photo on air, you’ll need to order a cable subscription that includes the Fox News channel.

Online offerings for TV programs have grown tremendously since our last presidential election in 2012. Thanks to Hulu, Netflix, and new a la carte channels like HBO Now and Showtime, you don’t have to be tied down to a cable subscription. But live TV news (not to even mention sports) is an area that’s still woefully lacking for those who have cut the cord. And that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change much in the 2016 election cycle.

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Some future debates will certainly be streaming. But we’re far from that being the default rather than the exception.

If you want to watch the debate you can tune in to Fox News at 9pm ET. But if you don’t have a cable subscription I guess you can go fly a kite. Or check out the dozens of illegal streaming services that are currently pirating Fox News. Either way, I guess.


Contact the author at novak@gizmodo.com.

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