Rival broadcasters accuse Sky News of jeopardising possible election debate

ITV and the BBC are crying foul over Sky News’ offer/threat to host Britain’s first US-style general election debate.

Writing in the Times yesterday, Sky News head John Ryley revealed that his channel had written to the three party leaders offering to host such a debate. And said he’d offer footage of the debate live and unedited to the channel’s competitors.

Ryley says: ‘The cameras will be rolling and anyone who doesn’t show up better be ready to explain themselves to the public.”

The move brought a double quick acceptance from both Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg but left other broadcasters whining.

ITV and BBC have accused Sky of risking the possibility of a three-way debate by breaking cover early.

The rival broadcasters, says the Guardian, are angry Ryley, made his declaration ahead of a meeting between all three on Friday, where they were due to discuss strategy for televised leader debates:

It is understood ITV wants its own exclusive debate, while the BBC would be happy for each broadcaster to hold their own and make it available to others. Sky News said it would host a debate and also allow others to take the feed, as well as hosting separate debates in Scotland and Wales.

One senior executive from a rival broadcaster described Sky’s move as “childish” and a “marketing stunt”, which had the ability to derail sensitive negotiations with the government to get the prime minister to take part.

“We are all pretty disappointed. This is no more than a stand that might jeopardise the debate rather than make it happen,” the source said.

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