The first full week of campaigning for the forthcoming General Election saw plenty of coverage on television this week as the parties launched their manifestos and took part in the first televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties. In a week dominated by politics on the television we look at the ratings for programmes across the week which were politically orientated.
Monday saw the Labour Party’s election broadcast carried on the terrestrial channels. The political broadcast, The Road Ahead, had a distantly Doctor Who feel to it even if viewers were immediately aware of it; the advert featured Sean Pertwee, son of 3rd Doctor Jon Pertwee, and David Tennant – who recently vacated the role of the Time Lord – lent his voice to the broadcast; earlier this year David Tennant quite vocally came out in full support of Gordon Brown and attacked Tory leader David Cameron. In all over 9 million viewers, across the channels, watched the broadcast.
At 8pm on ITV current affairs programme Tonight started it’s “spotlight” on the leaders special. The special documentaries on the leaders of the main parties follow the broadcaster’s interviews with the leaders in recent months. Gordon Brown was interviewed by Piers Morgan a few months ago with over 4 million viewers tuning in while the Sir Trevor McDonald interview with David Cameron was only seen by 1.9 million viewers. The first edition of Tonight’s “Spotlight on the Leaders” concentrated on Conservative leader David Cameron and was seen by 2.6 million viewers. BBC One at 8.30pm had Jeremy Paxman interviewing Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg with 2.2 million viewers tuning in – not far behind the figure for Tonight.
Following the political broadcast by Labour on Monday Tuesday saw an advert for the Conservative party but fewer viewers saw it. According to ratings it was narrowly behind with 8.9 million viewers. Tonight’s spotlight on the leaders saw Mark Austin profile Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, and was seen by 1.7 million viewers. This was down on the 2.6 million for the profile on David Cameron but it was outside of Tonight’s usual slot and therefore some viewers will have been unaware it was on.
The Liberal Democrats political broadcaster was seen by 8.5 million viewers – putting it narrowly behind the figures for the Conservatives and Labour. The final of Tonight’s spotlight on the leaders focused on Gordon Brown and had 2.5 million viewers – putting it just behind Monday’s profile on David Cameron.
The big day – the first televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties taking questions from members of the public. Some estimated that up to 21 million viewers would tune in which was just way out. The actual figure for the Election Debate was 9.4 million viewers peaking at 10.2 million viewers at 9pm. Across the 90 minutes the debate took place for – without an advertisement breaks on ITV1 – the audience stayed above 9 million viewers. Ironically the figure makes it one of ITV’s highest ratings for the year so far for a non-sporting event. The public reaction from the debate depends on which paper you read and what you believe but it’s widely accepted that Nick Clegg came out on top – but the debate lies on who was second; David Cameron or Gordon Brown. One wonders if it’ll be the same debate following the election?
Satirical quiz-show Have I Got News For You aired opposite the Leader’s Debate at 9pm as the new series has been moved to Thursday evenings. The edition, with guest host Robert Webb, did make reference to the debate in a humorous way and was seen by 4.3 million viewers. ITV news benefited from the debate between Clegg, Brown and Cameron as double its average audience tuned in – 6 million viewers. It also gave ITV News a rare victory of BBC’s 10pm News programme which had 4.2 million viewers. Question Time on BBC One at 10.35pm had 2.4 million viewers while This Week had just under 1 million following Question Time. A Newsnight special on the debate had 660,000 viewers at 10.30 for BBC Two while at 10.30pm on ITV Campaign 2010 had 1.7 million viewers.