C4 lobbies for election ‘voice’
17 January, 2013 | By Balihar Khalsa
Channel 4 is lobbying to host an election debate in the run-up to the 2015 general election campaign – and is arguing it should take over from Sky News in the roster
C4 is making the case that if there are three debates, as in 2010, it should be one of the host broadcasters.
It has begun communicating its view to the many parties involved in organising the debates, arguing that it would attract more viewers than Sky News.
“There are genuine discussions with No 10 about how to properly accommodate C4, given its PBS remit and Sky News’ small 2010 audience. It is about giving the debates as wide a reach as possible,” said a source.
“Sky had to rely on a BBC News simulcast and a BBC2 repeat to get its figures up.”
The Sky News debate, hosted by Adam Boulton, drew the lowest audience of the three, achieving an average of 2.12 million (8.7%) across the 90-minute broadcast, which peaked at 2.53 million (10.4%).
Including BBC coverage, it was ultimately watched by 4.3 million people. The ITV debate was watched by 9.5 million on average, and the BBC1 debate averaged 7.3 million viewers, rising to 8.4 million with simulcasts.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “As a public service terrestrial broadcaster, with a strong reputation among younger viewers and an award-winning track record in news and current affairs, we believe C4 could play an important role in engaging the UK’s viewers in a televised debate.”
Sky is aware of the case C4 is presenting and will counter that the 2010 Sky debate drew the second-biggest ever non-terrestrial TV audience, and was the culmination of an entire week of programming on the channel, which C4 would not be able to match.
It also believes that the PSB argument is a red herring. It will argue that Sky News’ strong record and reputation are not hindered by its lack of PSB status and that its reach is neither its USP nor how its success should be measured.
Prime minister David Cameron and other senior politicians have committed, in principle, to the debates taking place in 2015, and Labour leader Ed Miliband revealed last weekend that he “relished” the prospect.
But the shape of the debates is yet to emerge.
Options being considered among the political parties include the debates taking place earlier in the election campaign, or even reducing the number of debates from three to two. “If the politicians decide to cut the number of debates, it could mean only BBC and ITV hold them,” said a source
Formal negotiations between the parties and broadcasters are expected to begin in autumn this year.
One source close to the original negotiations said: “The main priority is to ensure that support for the debates expressed by Cameron and other politicians is transferred to the election campaigns.”
Last edited by Cando on 17 January 2013 1:40pm