After another fiery debate between the leaders of the three main political parties, all the news networks were last night claiming that it was their reporting which came out on top. ‘There’s no doubt that Nick Robinson won,’ said his BBC colleague Andrew Marr in the spin room afterwards. ‘He was polished, relaxed and on health, immigration and the economy had all the best questions.’
Snap polls conducted after the debate suggest that the BBC political editor has extended his lead in the viewing figures over his ITN rival Tom Bradby, but with Sky’s Adam Boulton benefiting from his exposure to terrestrial viewers during the second debate, experts are predicting that no single news outlet will secure enough of the audience to form an overall monopoly.
‘Coverage of this election has turned into a real three-horse race,’ said Vince Cable. ‘Gone are the days when people looked only to the two old stations for their view of the political landscape. The Sky News coverage is offering the audience a change that works for them, providing they’ve got a satellite dish and are prepared to pay £30 a month.’
As usual, coverage of the coverage included politicians poring over every word the journalists said. ‘You can see here that when Nick Robinson said the leaders were now on the home straight and the big question was who had the most in the tank for a sprint finish, the worm goes up,’ said George Osborne. ‘Viewers seem to warm to his sporting analogy. But then afterwards, when he stares at Huw Edwards with those small, beady eyes of his as if he’s been disconnected at the mains, you can see the worm dip as voters get turned off – or turn over.’
All the pressure in the lead up to the debate was on the ITN’s Tom Bradby following his gaffe earlier in the week when an off-screen mic heard him describe the Prime Minister as ‘a disaster’ after a frustrating interview on the street. ‘Whose idea was it to put me with him?’ he asked a producer. ‘It’s ridiculous.’ But colleagues welcomed his solid performance in the final debate coverage. ‘Robinson and Boulton may have won on style and presentation, but Bradby won on substance,’ said Alastair Stewart.
The political editors now return to the campaign trail in a final bid to persuade floating viewers to tune in on election day. However, some fear that the turnout could be hit by audience apathy as viewers develop ‘election coverage fatigue’ and choose to protest by spoiling their TVs and turning over to watch ‘The Boy Who Talks to Hedges’ on Channel 5.