Theresa May accepts BBC Brexit debate, but Jeremy Corbyn prefers ITV
The BBC said the political TV event will take place on December 9, but has not yet announced a time.
A live TV debate on the Brexit deal seems set to take place next Sunday night – but Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn cannot agree at what time or on what channel.
The BBC announced the Prime Minister had signed up to appearing on the channel – but the Labour leader says he wants the programme to be on ITV so it does not clash with the final of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.
The deadlock is threatening to derail the showdown on the draft Withdrawal Agreement altogether, with Number 10 said to believe the BBC proposal is more ”rounded” and focused on scrutinising Mrs May’s deal.
But Labour are unhappy with the plans to have a panel of other politicians and experts asking the two leaders questions, preferring ITV’s simple head-to-head in front of an audience of voters.
Speaking on This Morning, Mr Corbyn said: “The ITV offer seemed a sensible one.
“It reaches a wider audience and the timing looked good to me because it’s not inconveniencing people who want to watch other things later in the evening.”
Asked if he meant the I’m A Celebrity final, he agreed, adding: “Maybe I want to watch it myself as well.”
Downing Street and the Leader of the Opposition’s office are believed to have sat down with the four main broadcasters this week to hear their pitches before deciding on who to go with.
Like everyone else, we've just heard the Prime Minister has accepted the BBC’s offer to take part in a debate on the Brexit deal on Sunday 9 December. We’re delighted she’s agreed and hope to hear soon from the Labour party. (1/2)— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) November 29, 2018
The BBC had initially suggested the debate could take place on December 6.
But after Mr Corbyn’s office expressed a preference to go with ITV’s Sunday night slot, it offered to switch to Sunday as well.
That would mean finding a place for the hour-long show amongst a packed evening schedule including Countryfile, the series finale of Doctor Who and the Strictly Come Dancing results show.
The BBC is believed to have been willing to move an episode of Sir David Attenborough’s new series, Dynasties, in order to accommodate the debate.
We have been discussing debate formats with both parties and will announce further details soon. (2/2)— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) November 29, 2018
If it aired straight after Strictly, it could be boosted by the roughly 10 million viewers expected to already be watching the channel.
And an hour-long 8pm slot would also avoid a clash with the I’m A Celeb final, which airs at 9pm on ITV.
The BBC said it hopes “to hear soon from the Labour Party” on whether leader Mr Corbyn will join the TV event.
In a tweet earlier, the BBC said: “We’ve just heard the Prime Minister has accepted the BBC’s offer to take part in a debate on the Brexit deal on Sunday December 9.
“We’re delighted she’s agreed and hope to hear soon from the Labour Party.
“We have been discussing debate formats with both parties and will announce further details soon.”
An ITV spokeswoman said in a statement: “ITV will confirm its coverage plans for the week of the Commons vote in due course.
“As part of this, ITV has invited the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to appear in an ITV programme.
“As always, it is up to those invited to decide whether they want to accept the invitation.”
Meanwhile, campaigners for a second referendum are to make an official complaint to Ofcom regarding the composition of the Brexit debates.
The People’s Vote has also written to Lord Hall, the BBC director general, over plans for a head-to-head between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on December 9.
In their complain to Ofcom, they said: “Hosting a TV debate that is confined to the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit would not only breach Ofcom’s guidelines, but also the BBC’s own Editorial Guidelines.
Responding to the idea of a panel questioning the leaders, the campaign group said: “Even if such a panel included political figures representing our side of the argument, this would not be acceptable to us if they were relegated to a sideshow away from the main debate between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn.”
Ofcom, which has no power to block a debate from being broadcast, said it had yet to receive the complaint.
A spokesman for the regulator said: “The composition and format of debate programmes is an editorial matter for broadcasters.”