Broadcasters gear up to win the votes of viewers

By Caitlin Pike

Broadcasters are hoping to entice viewers with more engaging and
exciting coverage of the general election after the 2001 campaign
resulted in all-time low audience figures.

The BBC is mixing innovation, technology and light entertainment
with traditional reporting and analysis. One device is the use of key
voters to file reports on 3G mobile phones that will feed into the
BBC’s Breakfast and News 24 programmes.

At the launch of the
BBC’s election coverage on Tuesday Helen Boaden, head of BBC News, said
she thought the most important aspect of this year’s coverage would be
the way the corporation involved the viewers. “It’s no longer one-way
traffic,” she said.

“One of the key features of this year’s
election, I think, will be the impact of technology and the degree to
which we can interact with our audiences.”

The BBC plans to keep
viewers tuned with a range of ideas, including Newsnight’s Michael
Crick taking to the skies in a helicopter to The Politics Show
navigating the country by narrowboat.

BBC Breakfast’s Declan
Curry will be in a motorcycle side-car. Computer users can download a
mini Peter Snow from the internet, who will deliver election updates by
cheering: “Listen up. News just in.” Sky News is breaking tradition by
lining up Julie Etchingham as the first woman to anchor election night
coverage. The channel is also planning to use its helicopter to travel
up and down the country to capture voter reactions as well as offering
digital viewers the chance to watch 16 different screens and a
constituency picker that will give them news of their local
constituency at the press of the red button.

Getting behind the
political spin is also high on the agenda after the 2001 election was
viewed to be a coup for the political party PR machines. Craig Oliver,
executive producer of ITV’s election night programme, said: “Afterthe
blanket coverage of the campaign last time broadcasters looked back and
thought ‘is that the best we could do?’

Everyone covered
everything that moved and all the leaders got their message across at
every opportunity. This year there will be a lot more competition among
the leaders to get onto our programme.” Further details of ITV’s
election coverage has not yet been confirmed by the channel.


The BBC has secured the three major party leaders to feature in a
special election Question Time on Thursday 28 April. It had wanted to
stage a US-style election debate with the leaders but Labour is said to
have ruled it out.

Electioneering

PARTY LEADERS LOOK TO ATTRACT GAY VOTES

Tony Blair appears on the cover of gay magazine Attitude this month
in the first interview ever given by a serving prime minister to a gay
publication.

He is joined by party leaders Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy in
a series of interviews conducted by Independent columnist Johann Hari.

The
interviews follow on from similar pieces in women’s magazines
Cosmopolitan and Glamour this month, and reflect the politicians’

new approach to wooing the voters in the run up to the election.

In
the interviews, Howard says “I was wrong” on Section 28, while Blair
claims he can foresee a time when there will be an openly gay prime
minister.

Editor Adam Mattera said: “For the first time ever, the
leaders of all three political parties have given an interview to a gay
publication. Is this blatant electioneering? Absolutely, but no less
important because of it.”

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