A very interesting exchange I've just had on Political Betting - a poster called 'The Screaming Eagles' claims to have a source in Sky who has told him of the basis for the broadcasters' confidence that their proposals for a selective line-up of three in the forthcoming leaders' debates is law-proof. But, intriguingly, when pushed further the poster conceded that the broadcasters have a fallback position to cover the possibility that the SNP or Plaid Cymru might actually win a legal case -
"the debates will only air in England.
However the broadcasters will argue, that those with Sky in Scotland will be able to watch the debates on channel 974 (BBC1 London)
And with the freeview, BBC iplayer, you tube, and sky player, it will be impracticable to enforce a ban in Scotland."
In other words, another wheeze (to follow on from the 'Prime Ministerial Debate' rebranding) to artificially circumvent the inconvenient existence of a fourth major party in Scotland. What's extraordinary about this one, though, is that it tacitly acknowledges that the coverage will be grossly unbalanced, but essentially says to the court "nothing much you can do about it, gov, so you might as well let us get on with it". Now, I'm not a legal expert, but I'd have thought if such a stunt was pulled it would be perfectly open to the SNP's lawyers to simply say to the courts that they're reasonable people, and as such they would naturally only expect any block on a Scottish broadcast to be enforced to a practicable - and most certainly not an impracticable - degree. The percentage of Scots who would bother to seek out the debates by these theoretical exotic alternative methods would be fairly small, and thus the requirement for fair and balanced coverage between the four main parties in Scotland would essentially have been met. Everybody happy.