Channel 4 working with BBC, Sky and ITV to air 2015 UK general election leader debates

Channel 4 wants to host one of the televised party leader debates in the run-up to next year's UK general election for the first time – after feeling "excluded" from the 2010 broadcasts by the BBC, Sky and ITV.

Head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne told Parliament that the three broadcasters involved in the debates at the last election had "accepted completely" that Channel 4 should be involved and it has attended its first meeting with the other three to start planning.

The televised debates between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown in 2010 – a UK television first – reached more than 20 million viewers and were credited with boosting election turnout.

Byrne told the Lords communications committee today: "We felt excluded from the debates last time. We wanted to be part of the debates and we were unable to be so.

"This time we have said that these are more than mere television programmes. These have become key parts of Britain's democratic process and therefore as a public service broadcaster, particularly one with an ability to reach young people and ethnic minorities, it's really absolutely vital that we be involved and the other broadcasters have accepted that completely.

"We've now attended our first meeting of the broadcasters and we've been assured we will now attend all future meetings."

She added: "The principle as far as Channel 4 is concerned is that the largest possible number of people should see these debates."

Byrne said Channel 4 could bring its expertise in social media to the consortium and suggest new ways of making the debate more interactive.

In 2010, the broadcaster organised its own debate between the three potential chancellors of the exchequer as an alternative to a leaders' debate.

Channel 4 chief marketing and communications officer Dan Brooke said the debate between Chancellor George Osbourne and his opposite numbers for Labour and the Lib Dems aired by Channel 4 in advance of the 2010 general election had been a success, attracting 1.8 million viewers.

"We did our own thing," he said, but added: "Our first choice was to act in unison with the other broadcasters."

Asked if C4 would settle for airing an Ask the Chancellors debate again, Byrne replied: "Our first choice is to broadcast one of the leaders' debates."

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