U.K. candidates set for TV debate

Politicians vying for P.M. set for U.S.-style event

LONDON — A U.S.-style TV debate between the three political leaders vying to become prime minister will take place for the first time during a U.K. general election.

The debates between Labour’s Gordon Brown, who is the incumbent P.M., and his rivals for the top job, the Conservatives’ David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg, will be held in primetime on the BBC, commercial web ITV and satcaster Sky News.

A spokesman for the joint broadcasting panel said on Tuesday, “We warmly welcome the agreement by the party leaders to take part in these innovative programs. The agreement represents a major step forward in the way election campaigns can reach the entire population.”

Each show will feature a pre-determined theme for half its duration. The remainder of the program will be free for voters’ questions related to the election, expected to take place May 6.

Audience members can question the leaders directly while viewers will be invited to submit questions by email before the transmission.

U.K. pols have traditionally been reluctant to participate in live, U.S.-style TV debates, but broadcasters hoping for strong ratings and some positive publicity have been keen to break with the past.

The first televised presidential debate in the U.S. was held in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.