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Plaid contacts Ofcom over debate lock-out
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Plaid contacts Ofcom over debate lock-out - 21-April-2010, 13:30

Plaid Cymru has submitted a complaint to Ofcom about its exclusion from the televised prime ministerial debates.

Last week, Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg participated in the debut leader's debate on ITV1.

However, Welsh national party Plaid Cymru immediately submitted an objection to media regulator Ofcom that its exclusion from the debate breached the broadcasting code.

Plaid has also joined the Scottish National Party in lodging an official appeal to the BBC Trust about both parties' lock-out from the corporation's upcoming debate programme.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Plaid's election director Helen Mary Jones said that the party simply wants a "level playing field" during the campaign.

In a YouGov poll for ITV Wales, Plaid Cymru suffered a 5% drop in support following the ITV1 debate, compared to a 17% rise in backing for the Liberal Democrats.

Jones said that the post-debate poll results indicate that people's voting intentions in Wales and Scotland could be influenced "in a way that isn't fair".

"We're not, let's be clear, trying to stop these debates, because they do have value," she told Good Morning Wales.

"But we want to see the first minister of Scotland and the deputy first minister of Wales included in those debates."

Sky News will host the second leader's debate on April 22 in front a studio audience in Bristol, with the BBC's debate following on April 29 from the Midlands.

Jones acknowledged that Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones fared well in the first Welsh leaders' debate last Sunday on Sky News. She also noted that additional support for the Lib Dems was probably just a "bounce effect" from the debate on ITV1.

However, Jones argued that the main prime ministerial debates are not dealing with the "issues that people care about in Wales", such as pensions and care for the vulnerable.

"The fact is that we're not presenting the people of Wales with the proper choice if we're excluded from those debates," she said.

"We're asking Sky and the BBC to reconsider the format, to look at what happens in other countries that face the same sort of dilemma. If they're not prepared to do that then obviously we'll have to talk to Ofcom about asking them to take formal action because we are confident, and we have taken advice about this, that the code is being breached."

The BBC Trust recently told Plaid Cymru and the SNP to prepare for a possible oral hearing on their appeal over exclusion from the BBC's main election debate.
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