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11:53

#askthechancellors: How important was the digital audience in the UK Chancellor debate?

Last night I enjoyed lurking on the Twitter backchannel while watching Channel 4’s Ask the Chancellor debate – trivia mixed with observational insight.

I liked Evening Standard journalist Paul Waugh’s tweet about George Osborne’s ‘invisible pedal’ left-foot habit, as much as the economic 140-character analysis and Channel 4’s live poll via tweets, as the Chancellor hopefuls and incumbent fought it out (Vince Cable was the eventual winner, with 36 per cent; leaving Osborne and Darling with 32 per cent each).

Twitter also gave us an insight into the Channel 4/BBC political debate rivalry – spotted in tweets between Channel 4’s Faisal Islam and Radio 4’s Evan Davis. This, from Islam, for example:

amused by @r4today s licence-fee funded sniffiness about #askthechancellors Obviously nowt to do with this: http://bit.ly/aoc4MH

Probably worth noting this too, spotted via @the_mediablog:

RT @DominicFarrell: Those who will decide the #election were watching Coronation Street #askthechancellors

That was a sentiment supported by this morning’s TV stats: Brand Republic reports that Ask the Chancellors peaked at 2.1 million, while 9 million watched Eastenders.

So how important was this backchannel and the digital audience? That was the question Jim Naughtie posed to POLIS director Charlie Beckett on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme (audio at this link). Beckett said:

I think the real winner (…) despite some of the media cynicism, was in a sense ‘democracy’. I detected a lot of people who were quite pleased to hear a lengthy debate in detail, in public, by these people.

Beckett elaborates here, on his blog:

It all makes for much richer, multi-layered reportage. The TV debate alone would have been worth it. But the fact that tens of thousands of people were taking part reminds us that citizens do care about politics. And they want to be part of reporting the debate as it happens.

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