Yesterday, Gordon Brown called the 2010 General Election for 6th May. As candidates swung into action campaigning across the country, so did hundreds of journalists, producers and graphic designers as broadcasters began their election coverage. While most people are pondering whether to go for Labour, Tory or Lib Dem, I’m wondering who’ll provide the best coverage out of the BBC, ITV and Sky. Here’s a look at some of the things to expect over the next four weeks….
This year will see the first ever Prime Ministerial election debates on British television. The three broadcasters involved drew lots to decide the order, locations and topics covered, and ITV has the honour of showing the First Election Debate. Chaired by Alastair Stewart, the first of half of the 90-minute debate will be themed on domestic affairs and will take place in an as-yet undisclosed location in the North West at 8.30pm on Thursday 15 April on ITV1. Unlike Sky and the BBC, ITV have not offered the debate to be simultaneously broadcast on other television channels, although it will be available live to radio stations and can be shown on television immediately afterwards.
In the days running up to the debate, Mark Austin profiles the three main party leaders in a series of Tonight specials. There will also be a series of Tonight “election guides”. At 10:35pm on the night of the debate, Jonathan Dimbleby presents Campaign 2010, a series of weekly discussion programmes with analysis of the election.
ITV News will provide daily coverage of the twists and turns of the campaign. Political Correspondent Lucy Manning will follow Gordon Brown, International Editor Bill Neely will be with David Cameron, and UK Editor Angus Walker will follow Nick Clegg.
On 6 May, the ITV News Election Night Special Alastair Stewart will anchor while Julie Etchingham will look at results in a virtual studio, perhaps a waste of a very good interviewer. As well as a new version of the swingometer and the now-traditional 3D House of Commons, ITV’s graphical gimmick this year is “a unique DNA fingerprint of Britain”. Tom Bradby and Professor Colin Rallings will join them in the studio, while Mary Nightingale hosts an ITV Election Night Party on a boat on the Thames. ITV, the BBC and Sky News will combine forces to produce a major exit poll which will be released as soon as the polls close. In recent elections, ITV have always been the fastest to declare results, often long before the official counts have been completed. It’s meant that they’ve sometimes had to retract results, something that hasn’t made a massive difference in the more clear-cut elections over the last decade, but I wonder if they’ll be more cautious this time, with the outcome predicted to be especially tight.
Sky campaigned for the debates to take place and will provide full coverage of all three. Jeremy Thompson will presenting be live in the North West all day long on the day of the ITV debate, after which Dermot Murnaghan will provide analysis with guests including Armando Ianucchi. The Sky News Debate will take place will take place in the South West at 8pm on Thursday 22 April, with Adam Boulton posing questions on international affairs. This will also mark the debut of Sky News HD on Sky+ HD channel 517, another milestone in British television news. Again, the channel will come live from the location of the debate all day, with Kay Burley joined by everyone from political journalists to body language experts to look at how the party leaders performed. Sky will also host a Welsh debate at 10:30am on Sunday 18 April and a Scottish debate at 10:30am on Sunday 25 April.
Weeknights at 7pm on will be Randall and Boulton Unleashes (presumably a play on “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)”) where Adam Boulton in Westminster and Jeff Randall in the City of London will be joined by guests from the worlds of politics and buisness. At 11pm every weeknight, The Boulton Factor sees Sky’s political editor look back on the day’s events and look forward to the next day’s newspaper headlines.
On election night, Decision Time: The Result will take a new approach Sky News first tried out at the 2008 American election, not going for with the usual studio-based approach, with instead the programme being co-anchored on location with Kay Burley at Gordon Brown’s constituency, Jeremy Thompson with David Cameron and Anna Botting with Nick Clegg. Back in the studio, Adam Boulton will be joined by Professor Michael Thrasher in the studio for analysis and Martin Stanford provides the graphics.The following morning, Eamonn Holmes continues the coverage from the studio while his one-time breakfast TV rival Dermot Murnaghan co-hosts from Westminster. The election night coverage will also be in high definition. Expect lots of graphics and on-screen text. Unlike the channel’s reputation for fast breaking news, on election night Sky tends to be the most cautious when it comes to declaring results, always waiting for the returning officer.
The Prime Ministerial Debate will be on BBC One on Thursday 29 April at 8.30pm, moderated by David Dimbleby. Half of the questions will be themed on economic affairs and it will take place in the Midlands. Following each of the three debates will be special editions of Question Time, where audience members can give their reaction to the debates and extended episodes of Newsnight with full analysis.
Newsnight will also have extra Saturday specials, focusing each week on a major campaign theme. As well as extended editions of The Politics Show and The Daily Politics (featuring nine departmental debates) and additional episodes of This Week, Breakfast will see Bill Turnbull travelling to constituencies around the UK, the BBC News channel will have Campaign Show daily at 9pm and Newsround will feature key BBC correspondents explaining the election to children.
The BBC’s Election Night broadcast will come from, as usual, an enormous and impressive studio set at Television Centre’s Studio 1. David Dimbleby will be joined at his desk by Nick Robinson, Jeremy Paxman will grill the politicians, Fiona Bruce will have news updates and Jeremy Vine will be playing with “the greatest-ever Swingometer” (just, please, no cowboys!). New additions to the election night team will be Emily Maitlis, who will use a touch-screen to look in depth at the seat-by-seat results with pollster Peter Kellner, and Andrew Neil will be joined by some guests for reaction to the results as they come in.
Throughout the campaign there’ll be full coverage from the excellent Channel Four News with Jon Snow. On three Friday nights, starting on the 16th, Krishnan Guru-Murthy presents Britain’s Next Boss. He’ll be joined by a panel comprising people as diverse as businessmen, psychologists and comedians to look at how the party leaders have been doing on the campaign trail and in the televised debates. In the run up to election day, there will be a 90-minute discussion presented by Jon Snow and a Dispatches special. In the three days before 6 May, The Daily Rory Election Show, will provide satirical impressionist Rory Bremner’s take on the campaigning.
On polling day The Alternative Election Night will be a four hour live special presented by David Mitchell and Jimmy Carr, offering a humorous and entertaining look at the results as they come in, alongside pre-recorded election specials from Channel Four shows including Fonejacker and Come Dine with Me. Featuring contributions from Charlie Brooker and produced by his production company Zeppotron, hopefully it’ll invoke memories of the brilliant Election Night Armistice.