Thursday, January 13, 2011

A bit of political Four Play

A four-way debate - that is the only fair way that RTE can accommodate all the political parties in the run-up to the general election.

In the past, it was simply a two-way debate between what were the two biggest parties - Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Last year, Labour - quite rightly - was putting RTE under pressure to ensure that the leaders’ debate before the election would be a three-way one including themselves.

Judging by the opinion polls of the past 12 months, Labour can no longer be regarded as a small party, sidelined to a minor debate.

But now a new power has emerged - Sinn Fein. And with the last opinion poll showing that they had as much support as Fianna Fail, surely there is a valid argument to include them in such a debate?

To keep them out based just on the number of TDs the party has at the moment would be a gross insult to the people, many who, for the first time, are preparing to give the party a vote.

And it is the same for the Labour supporters. Labour will be a significant power in the next Government and Eamon Gilmore deserves a podium at the leaders’ debate.

Look at the leaders’ debates across in the UK in the run-up to the elections there last year. They were three-way debates and it wasn’t any huge problem. In fact, they were informative and entertaining.

The Greens will, no doubt, want a place in a leaders’ debate if it is a free for all. But a line has to be drawn and with little more than 3% support, it is hard to argue that they should be there.

A four-way debate is the fairest way that RTE can deal with this.

But then again, it may not be RTE who does it at the end of the day. TV3 will, no doubt, be keen to pitch for their slice of the action.

To be fair to TV3, they are taking the bull by the horns in overhauling TV coverage of elections.

They want an end to the archaic broadcasting moratorium in advance of polling day.

Current guidelines drawn up by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland force TV and radio stations to stop virtually all political coverage in a 48 hour period, which includes the day before polling day and the
day of the poll itself.

However this does not apply to print media, online media or to foreign media which are available in Ireland.

TV3 believes this moratorium has no basis in law, is non-existent in other countries, is ineffective and is archaic.


Michael M said...

It depends on your criteria for selecting the leaders debate. If it is supposed to be a battle between the party leaders on the shape of the next Dail and next government, then all party leaders in the current Dail should be included (including Greens and maybe even Mary Harney if she is contesting).

If you want it to be a debate between those vying for the role of Taoiseach, then the party leaders participating should be selected based on either number of candidates their party is putting forward (i.e. whether their party is contesting enough seats for them to be a viable Taoiseach) or opinion polls (as you seem to suggest in your blog).

If you are going for a debate of would-be Taoisigh debate based on number of candidates, then perhaps SF should be excluded and possibly Labour. If you are going on opinion polls, then perhaps both SF and FF leaders should be excluded.

Brian Cowen might be Taoiseach, but nobody, even himself, really expects him to be elected Taoiseach after the general election. After all George W Bush didn't take part in the US presidential debates in 2008.

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