20 April 2010

How did Sky News become the LibDems of the TV debate broadcasters?

If it was a major victory for the Liberal Democrats to be granted equal rights in the rules of engagement in the TV leaders' debates (see previous post), the same can surely be said of Sky News being granted equal debate broadcasting rights with the BBC and ITV.

BARB statistics suggest that Sky News has an audience of about two million - but whether that includes all the people watching it in hotel rooms abroad isn't clear.

Unless something happens in the second debate on Sky News this Thursday to turn the third one on BBC into an exciting final knockout round, two advantages make it look as though ITV will be the winner in the ratings battle. They had the luck to draw the straw to make history by broadcasting the first ever televised debate in a UK general election. And, by scheduling it immediately after Coronation Street, they had a captive mass audience of soap opera fans ready and waiting as history was about to be made.

But the Sky News debate on Thursday will come on after - er - Sky News.

So as big a question as how the LibDems managed to get equal rights for their leader in the debates is how the Murdoch media group managed to elbow other worthy candidates like Channel 4 News into touch to put Sky News on an equal footing with the BBC and ITV?

Since posting this and putting a link to it on Twitter, I'd like to thank Tom Rayner (@Tom_Rayner), Home Affairs Producer for Sky News, for tweeting the following helpful answer to my question "Sky News led the campaign for the leaders' debates - and were key players in the negotiations" http://bit.ly/1d51YU


Delbert Wilkins said...

It's more than that actually - they didn't just lead the campaign, they forced it to happen. Instead of waiting for leaders to accept, they just announced that they were going to hold a debate. Anyone who didn't attend would be "empty chaired". Once one accepted, the others had to accept.

Anonymous said...

What a patronising, old media view of the world. You might not have noticed but Sky News is now an equal player in the world of TV news. It won four awards in the RTS TV journalism awards in February. It has twice won BAFTAs for news coverage. And as you have now acknowledged, Sky News' initial campaign got the idea of debates on the agenda again. In previous elections ITV and the BBC had tried for debates, been rebuffed and retired hurt.

Max Atkinson said...

Thanks to Tom Rayner (see blog) and Delbert Wilkins, all is now clear - and it's good to see that you can learn things you didn't know from posting a question on a blog.

And, I stand corrected by Anonymous for my 'patronising, old media view of the world'. But I'm not convinced that Sky News, with it's very small audience (which presumably includes a high proportion of news anoraks like me), can be said to be 'an equal player in the world of TV news' , regardless of the achievements to which you refer - unless, of course, television companies have suddenly stopped regarding ratings as important.

pintosal said...

The problem with the Sky News broadcast was the constant 'ticker tape' stream of (old) news at the bottom of the screen.
I eventually decided to record the BBC2 version at 23:30, which was, thankfully, free of annoying artifacts.
This did however highlight the problem of distracting graphics when someone is talking.
Presenters and speakers often don't realise just how careful they must be when they talk over video clips, animations or even static graphs.
Eyes are drawn one way, ears another. Result: confusion.