U.S. senate candidate Linda Lingle last week launched her own cable cannel on Oceanic Time Warner, calling the move unprecedented in U.S. history.

“[D]igital cable channel 110 displayed as ‘LL2012’ in the channel guide, will mark the first time in U.S. campaign history that a political candidate will utilize a dedicated cable channel to interact with voters,” the press release reported. The former Hawaii governor is hoping to replace retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka.

The news got picked up by national media, even inspiring an entertaining riff on The Colbert Report.

But is her channel really the first of its kind?

First, we got in touch with Lenny Klompus, a Lingle campaign spokesman, to see how the campaign came up with the claim.

Klompus was quick to underline that the press release attributed the statement to Oceanic Time Warner Cable, which it did.

“The statement is fine,” said Jim Gordon, a national spokesman for Time Warner Cable. He emphasized the channel’s on-demand features. “The type of interactive on-demand technology being used is certainly a first in Hawaii and at TWC,” He said.

MaryAnn Sacharski, general manager of media at Oceanic Time Warner Cable in Hawaii, helped qualify the claim.

“As far as we know, this is the first on-demand channel of its kind for a candidate,” she said. “I suppose there are a lot of platforms, a lot of cable companies. But from our industry experience, to the best to our knowledge, it is.”

Sacharski points out that Lingle’s channel is on-demand and not linear — it’s not based on set scheduling. She compared it to interactive stations like the City and County of Honolulu’s The Green Channel.

When asked whether the technology of Lingle’s channel marks a first in the country, Gordon said that he isn’t aware of others.

While the channel appears to be a first for Time Warner, the company is just one of many cable companies throughout the country.

We turned to national cable trade associations and clearinghouses to see if they had any clue.

Rob Stoddard, a spokesperson for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association — the cable industry’s principal trade association — said that he couldn’t judge the statement’s accuracy.

“We haven’t done research on developments at quite this granular a level,” he said.

The association represents more than 200 cable program networks and nearly all the country’s cable operators, including Time Warner Cable, according to its website.

Two more associations — the American Advertising Federation and the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) — provided similar responses.

CTAM suggested that Civil Beat inquire directly with each cable company. Given that there are dozens of major cable operators — in addition to dozens more smaller companies — that wasn’t feasible.

Jason King, a CTAM spokesperson, doubted the association had the data to confirm Lingle’s claim. But he did say he had a “hunch” that it would be correct.

A fourth cable association, The Cable Center, an industry nonprofit and clearinghouse whose library contains a wealth of cable-related information, couldn’t confirm the statement’s accuracy either.

After doing some research, Lisa Backman, manager of the center’s library, found that a Rhode Island state treasurer candidate became the first political candidate in the country to use on-demand advertising on cable television for his campaign in 2006.

But the candidate, Frank Caprio, didn’t have an entire channel, she said.

And while President Barack Obama did have his own satellite channel on the Dish Network back in 2008, the station played a loop of campaign ads and a video. It wasn’t on-demand.

BOTTOM LINE: Lingle’s campaign attributed the assertion to Time Warner Cable. Both local and national spokespeople for the cable company say they’re unaware of any other interactive, on-demand cable channels in the country being devoted solely to a political candidate. Industry groups suspected it might be true but couldn’t prove it short of calling each individual cable company in the nation. We find the statement to be UNVERIFIABLE.

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