Saturday, 1 May 2010

Where to watch the UK Election on Thursday?

Well, the third of the leaders' debates is now over and there are only a few days left of campaigning before polling day on Thursday.  I'm an election junkie and always look forward to election night.  I'm a stay-up-all-night person and have been since 1987.  (I stayed up a bit in 83, but I was doing my 'O' Levels, so couldn't pull an all-nighter.)  This one is clearly going to be a cracker, the most interesting since 1997, perhaps the closest since 1992.  One of the things that I am looking forward to this time is being five hours behind, which means that all the juicy stuff should start happening long before the middle of the night.  So I've blanked out Thursday evening and night in my diary, I have got the beers in, and soon I will have everything ready for the toasted sandwiches, the traditional food of election night, at least in my house.

But there is a concern.  Where will I be able to watch it?  It is, of course, compulsory to watch Election Night on the BBC, with David Dimbleby and all.  There is simply no competition, and Dimbers is the only choice.  I had imagined that BBC America would be carrying the BBC1 coverage all the way through.  For the American presidential election, they did take the BBC coverage.  As of now, though, their schedule for Thursday just lists all the usual rubbish, Gordon Ramsay and the rest.  I wrote to BBC America about this and received the following reply:

BBC America is committed to providing the most honest, objective and straightforward news coverage from around the world. We are pleased to let you know that on May 6th 2010, the date of the UK General Election, the channel will present a special edition of BBC World News America focusing on all of the twists and turns of the day’s events, from across the party spectrum.
Unfortunately, this does not tell us anything much, unless the "special edition" of BBC World News America is in fact the live broadcast of the election coverage from the UK.

I have also asked C-SPAN if they are planning to carry some coverage direct from the UK since they have been the best of all the channels to this point in covering the election, e.g. they have broadcast all three of the leaders' debates live on C-SPAN 3.  I have not yet heard back from them, and they only update their schedules about twenty-four hours in advance.

I hope it won't have to be a case of plugging the laptop into the telly and streaming over the internet.

More as soon as I have it.

Update (Saturday, 14.23): More from BBC America in response to my wallpost on Facebook:
On May 6 at 7pm et/pt there will be special election coverage on BBC America's program BBC World News America. As the count begins to come in Matt presents a special Election Day program from the BBC’s Television Centre in London with Katty Kay in Washington DC. There will also be online coverage, which we will post about when there are more details.
I am afraid that this is bad news, for several reasons: (1) This confirms that BBC America are not showing the main BBC1 / BBC News feed from England. (2) They are not starting coverage until 7pm.  Coverage should start at 5pm (10pm British time). (3) There is no indication how long the coverage will last for.  The schedule has not changed on the BBC America site, so it looks like the "special election coverage" is not going to be lengthy, unless there are schedule changes to come.

So it looks like we may need to hope for C-SPAN, or go online.

Update (Sunday, 14.20): David Hendrix writes:
In past UK elections (certainly 2001 & 2005), C-Span HAS presented a live stream of BBC's election night coverage. Don't know why their website shows no listings yet for Thursday. As their UK debate coverage has been good I expect them to again carry the BBC feed.

It is no good trying to watch BBC coverage on the BBC website because the BBC iplayer detects if your IP address is outside the UK - and prevents US-based computers from getting the signal

However - the SKY TV website will probably be streaming their TV feed. If you can stand Adam Boulting's smirk...
David is right about the iPlayer. It will only work over here if you've found a good VPN or some other means of accessing it. Nevertheless, I am wondering whether the BBC will stream their election coverage from the website, as they did for the third leaders' debate. But that might be hoping too much. It is good to hear about the Sky possibility, and also to hear about the C-SPAN coverage last time. They have really come up trumps on this campaign so far, the only channel to carry all three leaders' debates live over here. I have emailed them to find out if they are planning to carry the BBC coverage this time too. Well, we should know by Wednesday evening, at the latest, when they update their schedules.

Update (Monday, 22.28): More news: BBC Election Night to show on C-SPAN?


Ian said...

I have the same problem! You mention streaming over the web - where would be streaming it? Is is a case of trying to avoid the geographical blocking on Iplayer or is there a more legitimate way of doing it?

Anonymous said...

Oh no. I have just moved to the USA, and was also looking forward to being 5 hours behind and having a fun evening of election-watching.

I even thought some of the bars here in Philadelphia might be covering it.

But it seems the Americans aren't nearly as interested in our politics as we are in theirs. Please keep this post updated if you have any ideas. I can't even seem to find a good site to stream the BBC News coverage over the internet!

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, a bit of a worry at this point. On the streaming, Ian, I *think* BBC News might stream live without the lock-down to international users. They certainly did this for the third election debate, so that is a good sign. Otherwise, it might have to be illegitimate ways of grabbing the content.

I am still hopeful that C-SPAN might come up trumps. Will keep the blog updated.

Nickname unavailable said...

Trying to follow this election from the United States has been one bitter disappointment after another. Thanks at least for your work looking to find a way to watch election night...

Do you know of any ways to get around the block on iPlayer? You mentioned access to a good VPN... I'm wondering whether I should start looking for proxy servers.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks; yes, it is tough. I've only managed with a VPN by parting with cash, I'm afraid. Never had any luck finding anything free.

Ross said...

Hi Mark,

If you have the BBC World News channel, the schedules on their website show that they are picking up the coverage with Dimbleby from 4:45 pm Thursday. My program guide on my cable system still doesn't show it yet, however.

I also have found an online stream of BBC News that is not blocked for American IP addresses. Feel free to email me at for that link (I'm wary of giving out a link that could get shut down in the comments).

Anonymous said...


I just found info about C-Span running the BBC programme. Perfect for us Brits in the US and for American political junkies.

All the details are in this blog on Huffington Post.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Ross and Anon. Good news indeed if C-SPAN will be showing. I have added a new post. Unfortunately, I don't get BBC World News America on the telly here, Ross.