In a move that’s likely to
set off a brawl of epic proportions, the Seven Network will ‘worm’ the entire
debate on September 12 between Prime Minister Howard and Opposition Leader Mark
Latham. That will be in contrast to Nine, who, having agreed to the debate, will
not be able to ‘worm’ it to show audience response.

With debate over
whether Seven can actually use the worm, the Network says it’s going to go ahead
and use the technology to show an audience’s response to the points made by both
leaders. Under the terms of the debate the worm is not permitted. But that
applies to the Nine Network.

Nine says it will be using the worm after the debate to gauge audience
reaction, but Seven sources say they are planning to use it as the debate goes
to air, as was done in previous debates.

That’s likely to upset the two political parties, but as the feed had to be
provided clean to other networks, there’s no comeback. Seven says it has reached
agreement with Roy Morgan to use the worm, and they will be using

Seven’s director of News and Current Affairs Peter Meakin told
Crikey: “The purported rules for the debate are in fact a clumsy attempt at
censorship. My advice is that the Government could also be involved in a breach
of its own trade practices legislation as this is a blatant attempt at third
line forcing.

“Not only do they attempt to squash the Worm while the
debate is in progress, they also seek to prevent anyone from using it in any
subsequent analysis.

“Furthermore, there is to be ‘no broadcasting of audience

“What does that mean? That ordinary voters are banned from
speaking their mind about the debate? Seldom has honesty been a bigger issue in
an election. For this reason alone, the Worm has a vital role to

“We plan to run the debate live – with the Worm. I don’t know that
the Liberal Party has the authority to tell stations who haven’t been chosen as
the host broadcaster how they should operate. Channel Nine is clearly the PM’s
choice and good luck to both of them.

“There’s not much point in us
running the debate unless there’s a point of difference.”

CRIKEY: First Vote For Me, now worming the debate. Will Seven
chairman Kerry Stokes lose his spot next to the Prime Minister at the dinner
celebrating 31 years in Parliament next year?