As the date for the British General Election starts to approach Sky News TV has been pressing the leaders of the three main parties – Labour, Conservative and Liberal – to enter in to a live TV debate.
Sky News has even started an on-line petition and at the weekend they kept proclaiming it had received 10,000 signatures. I haven’t counted the UK population recently but let’s say it is 60 million plus so 10,000 is hardly a ringing endorsement for the TV extravaganza.
Of course trial by TV is established practice in the USA. However that nation is the size of a continent so TV is an important electoral tool but to be honest just being an observer of the debates surrounding the Primaries and then Presidential contest has left me talked-at to death.
In Spain there are TV debates, two I think, between the leaders of PSOE and the Partido Popular ahead of a general election. I know they cause a lot of excitement for the media but whether they sway voters one way or the other I have no idea. I suspect they don’t.
The German General Election is shortly with us. They had a TV debate last weekend and Sky News gave it ample coverage telling us this was how our elections should be conducted. In the event it was a damp squib, boring in a very German way – indeed you’d get more excitement watching a man dance in Lederhosen.
So Sky News (the sister station of Fox News in the USA) backed by the Murdoch media empire of The Sun, The Times and the Bromley Bugle (ok I made the last one up) is pushing for the first General Election TV debate in the UK.
My view on this is very simple.
Yes to the TV debate – No to it being aired on Sky.
The whole essence of the three political leaders – Brown, Cameron and Clegg - going to head-to-head is that the British voters can watch, judge and decide.
Therefore the debates should be on free to view services such as the BBC or ITV.
Democracy is too valuable for it to be assigned solely to Sky subscribers. Nor are our politics yet another tool in the Murdoch armoury for increasing his empire’s viewers and profits.