MEDIA: ELECTION COVERAGE - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. The BBC's coverage outgunned ITV's on style and substance on the night, Steve Aldridge writes

I love voting. It's your right and duty. So, having exercised my

democratic right, I slipped home to take in the results. Remote control

in hand, I sized up the choices. This was the real contest, not the one

between Tony Blair and William Hague but between the Dimblebys, Jonathan

and David.



It seemed wholly appropriate that ITV should have preceded its election

programme with a political version of Dennis Norden's tired show. Its

purpose-built studio of gleaming structures looked the part. A confident

Jonathan gave us the rundown of the night ahead. But this grey

hanger-like set soon gave way to the truth.



Sunderland was up first and it was only the absence of Stuart Hall that

convinced me it wasn't It's A Knockout. Sunderland shaved a fantastic

two minutes off its record-breaking time. We ran with the runners and

talked to the counters. I needed some substance and pressed the

remote.



I'm straight into Michael Portillo kicking off with Paxman. Paxman had a

rolling panel of three MPs throughout the night, whom he bantered with

and tortured at various intervals. He was a good foil for David Dimbleby

who had his own panel of three political experts to draw on.



Enter Peter Snow. He was rightly smug as he revealed his laser

swing-o-meter, an amazing radar that swung back and forth, changing

colour.



His virtual steps to Downing Street were too much. I felt scared for him

as they slid out and he prepared to run up them. Time for a change, what

was Dermot Monahan up to?



Dermot's swing-o-meter was pure Saturday night, come on down, Cilla.



A graphic 3D slide rule with the heads of Blair and Hague at either end,

which smiled or frowned depending on swing. Dermot's big trick was his

virtual reality. He was in the House of Commons as it filled up with MPs

then in Downing Street with an array of counting graphs. I was

impressed.



Then we caught up with Katie Durham playing Anneka Rice, starting in

Scotland then flying to London. I felt sorry for Martin Bashir, who had

to stand outside the Tory Party headquarters all night.



I flicked back to the BBC and there I stayed. I wanted to hear about

politics and to watch lively debate. I could live without their annoying

"cafe" of celebrities but visits to it were rare. Overall, the

presentation was more accurate and the interviews more informative.

Ultimately, though, the winner is television. To watch democracy unfold

in your living room is precisely why I voted in the first place.



BBC's Vote 2001: The Verdict versus ITN's Election on ITV

Time 9.55pm to 6am

Ratings BBC averaged five million (36 per cent share). ITV averaged 2.3

million (17 per cent share)

Advertisers during ITV coverage included McDonald's, Norwich Union,

Dulux, NatWest, Citroen



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