Without a doubt, this years general election is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic in recent memory. The conservative government have been praised by business leaders but cursed by those on low wages and Labour have begun successfully getting across a message of better conditions for workers, albeit with captains of industry dismissing their approach. At the same time, we have the likes of the Green Party and UKIP pushing very specific messages, with little to no experience in actual governance. That's lead to a wide open competition and could mean yet another coalition, and one between potentially unlikely partnerships.
But before all that though, the two major party leaders took to Sky News' studio to attempt to win the public over to their message and win an overall majority. The broadcast, which was rather dramatically titled 'Cameron & Miliband Live: The Battle for Number 10', saw both Cameron and Miliband individually take part in a 15 minute interview with Jeremy Paxman before having the floor opened to a studio audience to who put questions to the leaders.
Cameron was seen to have done well in the Paxman interview, despite being forced to admit that he could not himself live on a zero hours contract and being grilled on his cabal of ultra wealthy, privileged cabinet. Miliband, meanwhile, was seen to do better in the audience Q&A, having room to lay out a grand vision for the UK, rather than defend policy like Mr Cameron. The interview though was a controversial one, with Mr Paxman accused of bullying as he called Mr Miliband a 'north London geek' and remarked that his brother would have done a better job as Labour leader. Social media was outraged with his treatment, but the general sense was that Mr Miliband didn't have too much of an answer for many questions, and had to adopt a tougher stance in order to counteract Mr Paxman's ruthless line of questioning.
Now ahead of the ITV's seven-way debate between the leaders of the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, they've published the numbers of just how many people tuned in to watch their broadcast. Those numbers are deeply impressive, with more than 3 million tuning in on Channel Four, 387,000 on Sky News and another 322,000 watching online via the various Sky News portals. That's almost 4 million people who tuned in, and with 20% of the viewers being aged between 16 and 34, those are very solid numbers.
The programme was also the number 1 trending topic and the www Sky com phone number was swamped with congratulatory phone calls from customers. Naturally, Sky themselves are pleased with the broadcast, with Jay Hunt and John Ryley both commenting. Jay Hunt, Chief Creative Officer at Channel 4 said: “This was vintage Paxman and will turn out to be one of the TV moments of the year. I’m thrilled that 3 million people watched the election campaign start in style and I’m particularly delighted that so many viewers under 30 tuned in.”
Meanwhile, John Ryley, Head of Sky News commented: “I am very proud of what we achieved last night. The production was testimony to the Sky team’s energy, and sheer hard work. Jeremy and Kay did an incredible job. The viewing figures are impressive added to which there was huge engagement on social media.”
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