TV debates; notes of caution….
Political comment is all-a-twitter this morning with the news that David Cameron has accepted the Sky News request to appear in a pre-general election TV debate with Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg. The Times says that David Frost will chair the debates and that discussions around the issue are ongoing over the summer with Clegg also ‘keen’ to take part in such a debate. Mark Reckons is fully behind Sky;
“I suggested that as long as all 3 main leaders had been invited then the debate should go ahead even if one of them declined to participate and asked if any broadcaster has the courage to do this.”
On one hand it is one of those things that is hard to object too; of course, Brown should accept and be judged if he doesn’t. However, I feel that Mark Pack is right to be cautious and ‘puzzeled’ by the view that such debates are automatically good for democracy and have reservations myself.
One of the main reservations is that there is no way this debate should become the sole preserve of a subscription channel broadcaster; sure they have had the initiative but I think it wholly wrong that democracy should go the way of football match’s and be the preserve of those willing/able to fork out for a Sky subscription. So, any debate must take place across channels and Sky must be forced to share the broadcasting rights.
Secondly, a clear criteria must be established for qualifying for a spot on these debates so minor parties at least have a chance of being allowed a voice. Given the problems with our electoral system however, I feel that TV debates will contribute to the media marginalisation of minor parties and therefore from that angle contribute little to our democracy. It is all very well for Liberal Democrats to be pleased because we know this time around at least we will be invited along but what if we were a smaller parliamentary force?
Open primaries and TV debates kind-of suggest to me that we feel that the way forward for our rather beleaguered democracy is to Amercanise it when that is defiantly not the way. This is not to say I am against them but I think the devil can be very much in the detail. Both open primaries and TV debates actually entrench the power of vested interests in many ways and also increase the importance of money (and therefore incentive to corruption) not decrease it so we should be cautious in seeing it as the solution.