Letter: Hopes for a TV election debate

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The Independent Online
Sir: Adam Boulton was not a party to any of the negotiations between the BBC, ITN, ITV and the political parties over the proposed leaders' election debates. His attack on us, arguing that we betrayed our public service remit and "must not be allowed to mess it up again" (Letters 3 July) is self-serving nonsense. Tony Hall in his article for The Independent ("The televised debate that never was", 2 July) and I in my recent speech to the European Media Forum have made clear how close the negotiations came to success, and why they failed - the parties were not prepared to make the marginal concessions which would have resulted in the debates taking place, and once the campaign started in earnest the politicians and broadcasters ran out of time to resolve the outstanding problems.

We all need to think hard and long about the lessons of that experience and how to ensure that in the next general election British voters, like their counterparts in most other democracies, can see the leaders of the main parties debate the major issues on television. One of the questions which should be carefully examined is whether a non-partisan body, such as the independent commission suggested by Stephen Coleman and Julie Hall (Letters, 5 July), could have a role in that process, which next time should start a good deal earlier than the eve of the election campaign.

For Adam Boulton to try to turn this complex and important question into a thinly disguised plug for Sky News is unworthy of him.

RICHARD TAIT

Editor-in-Chief

ITN

London WC1

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