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 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Paul Rowley
looks back at the history of the party political theme song
 real 28k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 14:26 GMT
Election TV switched on
Geri Halliwell in Labour's election broadcast
Parties will be trying to grab viewers' attention
By the BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas

Labour's party election broadcast on Monday evening - featuring, among others, the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell - is the first of the campaign, and though most voters insist they never watch them, there are plenty more to come.

From now until polling day, there'll be a broadcast almost every evening - and more on some days - but which ones you can see or hear will depend on where you live.


Millions of viewers with multi-channel television can ignore the election altogether

Labour made three versions of tonight's broadcast, reflecting its performance in England, Scotland and Wales - and that just shows how complex the election broadcast system has become since devolution.

In England, on BBC One and Two and ITV, there will be five broadcasts for Labour and the Conservatives, four for the Liberal Democrats and one each for minor parties that are putting up enough candidates to qualify.

Different in Scotland

That includes the Greens, the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Alliance and UK Independence Party, all of which are standing in at least one-sixth of the seats in England.

But it's different in Scotland and Wales. Both have four main parties - including the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales - and they will get four broadcasts each, with the minor parties again getting one each.

Of course, these won't be necessarily the same minor parties - it depends on which parties stand in at least one-sixth of the seats in Scotland and Wales.

The same principle applies in Northern Ireland.

It's even more complicated for Radio 4, Channel 4 and Channel 5, which transmit one signal to the whole UK and can't beam separate broadcasts to different areas.

They'll carry three broadcasts for the SNP and Plaid Cymru, four for the Liberal Democrats and five for Labour and the Conservatives - as well as one each for most of the minor parties.

But they won't be carrying one for the Greens, which qualify for broadcasts only in England and Wales.

On the radio

Got it, so far? Then you might like to know that on Radio 2 and the national commercial radio stations - Virgin, Classic FM and Talksport - Labour and the Conservatives get only three broadcasts each.

The Lib Dems, the SNP and Plaid Cymru will have two each, and the minor parties (again, excluding the Greens) one.

In the past, it was hard for viewers to avoid the election broadcasts because they were on the same time on each channel - and there were far fewer channels. Now it's easy to avoid them, should you choose.

Not only are they are on at different times but millions of viewers with multi-channel television can ignore the election altogether.

That means the parties must try harder to grab viewers' attention - hence the appearance of Geri Halliwell and other well-known faces and voices.

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