The BBC will not host a leaders’ debate ahead of the June general election following the Prime Minister’s announcement that she would refuse to take part in any head-to-head TV debate.
BBC One will host a seven-way Election Debate on 31 May with “spokespeople” from the main political parties, moderated by Mishal Husain, but Press Gazette was told this is not being billed as a leaders’ debate.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We aren’t doing a leaders’ debate because Theresa May said she didn’t want to do one. The people who have been invited to do the Election Debate are senior members [of political parties] – a mixture of leaders and non-leaders.
“It is important with this election that everyone does hear from the leading party. And as it isn’t a Leaders debate, it isn’t imperative that the leaders of the parties are the ones that participate [in this debate].”
In 2015, the BBC ran a head-to-head TV debate which was attended by all major political party leaders except for then Prime Minister David Cameron, who was not empty chaired as a result.
ITV announced last week that it would be hosting a leaders’ debate on 18 May – with all seven major party leaders invited (even though May and Corbyn have indicated they will not attend).
As part of its general election coverage this year, the BBC will host two Question Time election specials with leaders of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP political parties.
The first, on 2 June, will see Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn take questions from the studio audience in consecutive appearances – never sharing the stage. The second, on 4 June, will feature Tim Farron and Nicola Sturgeon in the same format.
Plaid Cymru and UKIP will also get their own editions of Election Questions.
The BBC told Press Gazette the Question Time debates had “worked well in previous years”.
The final BBC debate before the election will be a Newsbeat Youth debate on 6 June with an audience of 16 to 34-year-olds featuring leading politicians from the seven major political parties.
BBC fact-checking service Reality Check will have a weekly slot on the Sunday News At Ten bulletins during the election campaign.
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will be interviewed on The One Show “to find out about the person behind the politics”. May will appear along with her husband on 9 May.
The General Election Results Night Special will be led by David Dimbleby with Mishal Husain, Emily Maitlis and Jeremy Vine through the night, with Huw Edwards to take over in the morning.
BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland will have their own results programmes.
On results day, 9 June, a final Question Time Election Special will be broadcast live on BBC One at from 8.30pm.
BBC head of newsgathering Jonathan Monro said in a blog post: “As we know, the Prime Minister has said she will not participate in a televised leaders’ debate. That is her right.
“We won’t be embarrassing anybody into taking part – there’ll be no empty chair or vacant podium on any BBC programme. Ultimately it is for each party to say who will participate. We are inviting them to put up for the debate the person that they think will best make their party’s case. We do this because we think it is right to host debates that give people the chance to see how the major parties match up against each other.”
Picture: Reuters/Stefan Rousseau/Pool