I revealed this morning that a deal had been struck over the April TV debates between Brown/Cameron/Clegg. A statement came out 10 minutes ago.
The main points are:
1] Each audience of about 200 will be picked by ICM to reflect a broad range of political views. About 40 in each audience will be politically “undecided”.
2] The debates will be:
a] Alastair Stewart of ITV on domestic affairs in Manchester
b] Adam Boulton of Sky on international affairs in Bristol
c] David Dimbleby of the BBC on the economy in Birmingham
3] There will be no ad breaks. Each politician will make opening statements. As they are asked questions, each has a chance to answer on the specific point before moving on to a 4-minute period of “free debate”. Statements, answers and rebuttals will each be limited to a minute – apart from the closing statements of up to a minute and a half. This means a big clock on the wall of the auditorium.
4] The questions will be put forward by the public and then picked by a panel of journalists from within each broadcaster. The authors of the “winning” questions will then get to ask them on live TV.
5] The leaders will stand at podiums throughout the debate. They will shake hands at the end of each programme.
6] The studio audience should remain quiet. They can applaud at the beginning and end of each programme but must otherwise refrain from applauding.
7]The fringe parties – BNP, Ukip and Greens – will be given the consolation prize of having their reactions aired on News at 10, Newsnight and the Today Programme.
8] As expected there will be separate leaders debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Here is a link to some thoughts from Ric Bailey, one of the negotiators at the BBC.
Sky has a link to the full 80-point agreement between the six parties.
Here is the statement from the broadcasters:
Three of the UK’s main broadcasters and the three biggest political parties have now reached full agreement on televised Prime Ministerial Debates during the 2010 General Election Campaign. These will be the first such events ever held in the UK.
A set of rules, common to all three programmes, has now been agreed after a round of face-to-face meetings involving representatives from Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties together with executives from ITV, Sky News and the BBC.
All three debates will be broadcast live in mid-evening, weekday slots in front of a studio audience.
Members of the audience will be able to put questions to Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg directly. Additionally, viewers will be invited to submit their own questions by email in advance of the programmes. Each broadcaster will be making its own arrangements for inviting questions from viewers. The programmes will each have a pre-determined theme for half of their airtime. The remaining time will be open to questions on any election issue.
The broadcasters have jointly appointed the market research company ICM to recruit an audience with a broad cross-section of views.
The first debate will be screened on ITV1. Its themed section will be on domestic affairs. This programme will come from the North West of England. It will be moderated by Alastair Stewart.
The second debate will be screened on Sky News. Its themed section will be on international affairs. Adam Boulton will be the moderator, and it will come from the South West.
The final debate will be screened on BBC One. David Dimbleby will be the moderator, and its themed section will be on economic affairs. The programme will be based in the Midlands.
The broadcasters drew lots to determine the order of the debates and the allocation of themes. Representatives of the parties drew lots to determine the order of speaking. Mr Clegg will open the first debate. Mr Brown will open the second, and Mr Cameron will do so in the third programme.
The exact dates of the programmes will depend on the length of the campaign, and will be announced by the broadcasters once the Prime Minister has formally called the General Election. There will be no commercial breaks during the programmes.
The parties and broadcasters have agreed to a set of rules governing the debates. Each party leader will have the opportunity to make an opening statement on the programme’s theme before tackling questions. Each leader will answer all of the questions, and be allowed rebuttal time to react to their opponents’ answers and make further points of their own. A period of free debate may then follow. They will not have any prior notice of the questions.
Statements, answers and rebuttals are all subject to time restrictions – usually one minute but with a longer closing statement of 1 minute 30 seconds at the end of each programme. The broadcasters have agreed to give each leader equal treatment during the programmes, and the primary role of the moderator is to ensure fairness within the agreed rules.
Questions will be chosen by an editorial panel of senior journalists, including the moderator, within each broadcasting company. Questions may be submitted for consideration up to and including the day of the live transmission. The membership of these panels will be made public, but they will meet in private.
Each broadcaster will make its own arrangements about separate and additional debates taking place in Scotland and Wales and the coverage of other parties in the Election.
A spokesperson for the joint Broadcasting Panel said: “We warmly welcome the agreement by the party leaders to take part in these innovative programmes. We were delighted by the positive atmosphere in all our dealings with the parties over the last few months, and the agreement we are jointly announcing today represents a major step forward in the way election campaigns can reach the entire population.”
And here is a separate announcement on the regional (including Scottish) debates – and the consolation prizes for the fringe parties including the BNP:
The BBC is to hold separate party leader election debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These debates are in addition to the three Prime Ministerial Debates that have already been jointly announced by Sky, ITV and the BBC. (1)
The BBC will be talking to the relevant parties about the details of these debates, now that agreement has been reached over the UK-wide debates.
In addition to the debates in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the BBC will ensure that appropriate parties (2) not taking part in the Prime Ministerial debate will receive specific and guaranteed opportunities to air their views responding directly to the UK-wide debate. These include:
- Immediately following the BBC’s Prime Ministerial Debate, BBC One’s News at Ten will carry contributions from other parties, including UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP. There will be a special and additional opt allowing viewers in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to hear the views of other parties which have substantial electoral support in their part of the UK.
On Newsnight, following the initial reporting of the debate, Newsnight Scotland will begin earlier than usual for analysis and reaction from parties in Scotland. There will be a special programme for viewers in Wales on BBC Two at the same time. Contributions from UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP will be included on Newsnight.
Other BBC outlets which report on the debate during the evening will also include contributions from the other parties.
The following morning, Radio 4′s Today programme will include interviews with representatives of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP.
BBC Online, which will stream the Prime Ministerial debate live, will also carry video clips of the reactions of all the above parties, as well as those in Northern Ireland, to the debate.
Good Morning Scotland, Good Morning Wales and Good Morning Ulster will all carry full reaction to the UK-wide debate, including from those main parties which only stand candidates in those parts of the UK, plus other parties which have significant levels of electoral support.
A BBC news spokesman said:
“We believe the national debates, and these additional specific and guaranteed opportunities to air views about the UK-wide debate, will ensure due impartiality is achieved in line with the BBC’s Election Guidelines.”