Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Plaid Cymru and SNP review BBC licence policy support

Elfyn Llwyd
Plaid Cymru and the SNP are to review support for the BBC licence fee

Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are to review their support for the BBC licence fee.

Each party will look again at its broadcasting policy in response to what they call a 'stitch up' over live Prime Ministerial TV debates.

Plaid and the SNP believe plans by broadcasters will give "unfair and unbalanced coverage" to other parties.

The BBC say separate leader debates will be held in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Plaid Cymru and SNP Westminster Parliamentary Group met on Thursday to discuss broadcasters' plans for general election coverage.

These include Prime Ministerial debates on the BBC, ITV and Sky between Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg.

Plaid and the SNP are angry that they will not be represented in these debates.

'Unfair'

Plaid's Westminster Leader Elfyn Llwyd MP said: "We met to discuss the unfair treatment of Welsh and Scottish licence fee payers who are being denied the opportunity by the public broadcaster to hear from their respective national parties in these set piece leaders debates.

"It is unacceptable for the people of Wales and Scotland to be short-changed in this way and for the leaders of London parties to be given an additional 90 minutes of prime time exposure.

Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Gordon Brown
The debates will feature Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown

"Canada's state broadcaster, CBC, manages to achieve balance across five parties and two languages. It is deeply disappointing the BBC currently lacks to ambition to even try."

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP argued that broadcasters, "in cahoots" with the three political parties who would be taking part in the debates, are attempting to exclude entire countries from them.

He said: "A stitch up between the London based BBC management and the London parties has disenfranchised voters in three countries.

"With the cavalier attitude of London establishment continuing, we must devolve broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly - where the interests of Scottish and Welsh licence payers will be a priority, not an afterthought."

The three 90-minute debates will begin by focusing on domestic policies, international affairs and the economy.

Studio audiences will then be able to ask direct questions on any subject, with viewers doing the same via e-mail.

The BBC will hold separate party leader election debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and other parties will be able to respond to the debates during subsequent news programmes.

A BBC spokesperson said: "Together with Sky and ITV we have this week announced that full agreement has been reached on televised Prime Ministerial Debates during the general election campaign.

"The BBC has also announced it is to hold subsequent leaders' debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, part of a range of measures to ensure that the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Northern Ireland and other parties have appropriate opportunities to be heard.

"Clearly the issue of devolution of broadcasting is a matter for government not the BBC."



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