'Late Late' will restrict Norris in 'interests of fairness'
'THE Late Late Show' has secured a major coup by landing the first TV confrontation between the presidential rivals.
The Irish Independent has learned that the first live debate among contenders who have secured nominations will take place on the RTE flagship show next Friday, September 30.
The timing is being discussed but already agreed is that the broadcast will see each candidate make their presentation, before host Ryan Tubridy and the audience question them.
However, should Senator David Norris be among the nominees, his presentation may be shortened, in the interests of fairness. The independent senator was interviewed at length on 'the Late Late Show' last Friday night.
The decision to stage the debate on 'The Late Late' rather than on a stand-alone TV special or 'Prime Time' is a major coup.
'The Frontline' leaders' debate on February 14 was the second most-watched programme so far this year, with an average audience of 965,000 tuning in to see the leaders of the five main parties address the nation before the general election. 'Prime Time's' three-way Leaders' Debate on February 22 also attracted 807,000 viewers.
However, a station source said 'the Late Late Show', which despite speculation over fluctuating figures is the most popular programme on Irish television, was the perfect setting for the debate.
"There is no better place for each of the nominees to make their case and be heard by the whole of Ireland," added the source.
But grilling all the nominees at once could put Tubridy under serious pressure after some weekend commentators suggested he had "fluffed" his interview with Mr Norris last Friday.
Mr Norris told the Irish Independent: "I thought Ryan Tubridy did a completely professional job. I know it was put to him that he had to ask the hard questions. He did ask the hard questions."
The Irish Independent also understands that RTE's 'Frontline' will invite the same candidates on for a second debate in the final week of campaigning.
Meanwhile, TV3 will hold a special 90-minute presidential debate programme on Tuesday, October 4, at 9pm.
The station said details would be released in due course.