2 Mar 2010

Will TV debates seem tame compared to Question Time?

So the form of the TV debates is decided – you can see the agreement between the broadcasters and the parties here.

This is an electoral innovation and the strictness of the rules reflects the nervousness of the parties, dipping their toes in where none here has gone before.

It may also, of course, prove to be a bit of a turn off. 

Viewers who are used to the to and fro of BBC1’s Question Time will find the audience is restricted to posing a question to kick off discussion between the party leaders.

They won’t be allowed follow-ups. In an age of televised Prime Minister’s Question Time, probing TV interviews, monthly press conferences, we now have a prime time 90-minute experience that will be more rigid on content and format.

It may feel a little retro.

It will certainly, by the look of the rules, feel a little American.

You can’t ask a question about an individual politician, about anything other than “election issues”.

We are used to our “moderators” geeing politicians along or keeping them to the subject.

In these debates “it is not the moderator’s role to criticise or comment on the leaders’ answers”.

The rules remind you of the first days of television broadcasting of the Commons – rules on cutaways of the audiences, the size of the camera shot of the moderator. 

The prize, the broadcasters hope, is an innovation that will become part of the electoral landscape. Who won and lost in this battle? 

Senior Labour ministers originally talked of wanting more debates starting earlier – one talked of wanting them to start before Christmas. They didn’t get more than three.

The Liberal Democrats still can’t believe their luck. Their man, Nick Clegg, will, for the first time, be treated as an equal of the other party leaders. 

It is an extraordinary gift from the other parties – we shall see if they come to regret it.

Tweets by @garygibbonblog

6 reader comments

  1. adrian clarke says:

    I suspect it will be a damp squib that shows us very little of policy , but as in the commons one trying to show up the other two .I think it will be a voters turn-off

  2. ceedee says:

    I think you mean “even more tedious than QT”…
    Given the format, I can’t see the point.

  3. Anthony Martin says:

    Well, we can expect a filtered, selected & vetted audience of middle upper class educated 50 something, mainly white British patriots. All staged and full of spin and bull.
    Britain, the little clone of America, totally controlled by the rich few and ready spout off another load of obfuscational, warped manipulated statistical nonsense to highly selected questions, to appeal to
    gullible fools in the south of England Shires.
    We’re already expecting the usual political puppet of the BBC (British Brainwashing Corporation!) to bombard us with this tripe nearly 24/7. We don’t need Channel 4 doing the same.
    The only good coming out of this that Nick Clegg, whoever he is, will get some airing of his political nonsense too.
    Well, the TV will be getting switched off a lot soon.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Anthony you spoil many good points in your blog with your obsession with people who work and produce moneies that those less able can survive . i suspect you are totally wrong on the audience too. It will be very diverse as a deference to this countries obsession with diversity and multiculturism

    2. the-Richard-of-Nottingham says:

      “filtered, selected & vetted audience of middle upper class educated 50 something, mainly white British patriots.”

      What Britain are you living in ? Haven’t you seen the BBC’s selection criteria at work ?

    3. Tom says:

      Dear Channel 4
      I would love to watch a program by setting up a fair and honest debate with UKIP and a couple of other ‘minor’ parties, Greens, Bnp etc. I find it strange that the BBC are only putting on the three main parties?? And that only leaves the question why?? I thought that every party would have a fair crack at putting there policies forward being that its a GE? It seems to me Ch4 you are quite “anti-establishment” with such programmes as the brilliant Dispatches , the alternative Christmas message etc , and would probably delight at stealing a march on the BBC it would put the BBC well in the shade and be a political first, a real coo, ratings would go through the roof I am certain of it…anyway Just a thought !!

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