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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has vowed to fight its proposed exclusion from UK-wide televised leaders' debates, warning it has hired top lawyers to examine a potential legal action.
- Background: Broadcasters turn down DUP TV debate request
DUP leader Peter Robinson said he hoped a change of stance by the four main broadcasters would avert the need for a courtroom showdown in London.
ITV and BBC have written to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to explain why they will not be included in TV debates ahead of the General Election.
In the letter, the broadcasters said it would be unfair to include one party from Northern Ireland but no others.
They added that the alternative of including all five major parties in the country - DUP, Sinn Fein, the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and the Alliance Party - would be "disproportionate" and "not in the wider interests of viewers throughout the UK".
At present, the broadcasters have proposals in place to involve party leaders from seven parties: Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Ukip, Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru.
The letter noted: "Including all the major Northern Ireland parties in the network programmes would mean having 12 participants - and 97% of viewers in the rest of the UK would not be able to vote for at least five of those twelve parties."
Both the BBC and UTV plan dedicated debates in Northern Ireland involving all the larger Northern Ireland parties.
Just under half (49%) of Britons think that election debates involving seven political parties will make for a more interesting debate, a poll has found.
Only around one in five (22%) respondents to the ComRes/ITV News poll said it would make the debates less interesting.
However, only two in five (39%) said that the televised debates will be important in helping them decide who to vote for. This proportion rose to over half (51%) among respondents between the ages of 18 and 24.
Almost two-thirds (64%) said the debates should go ahead even if David Cameron does not take part.
Despite admitting that his requests to extend the party leaders have now been met the Prime Minister still refused to confirm he will definitely be taking part on them.
David Cameron was asked by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener if he would now take part in the the televised debates, he said:
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has criticised the revised plan for televised debates saying they will not work with "seven people on the podium".
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has welcomed plans for seven-party TV election debates saying the the people of Wales deserve a "true choice".
The Tories would not be drawn on whether Mr Cameron would take part in televised debates before the General Election, with a spokesman saying: "These new proposals are being considered as part of the ongoing discussions about the debates."
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said it would challenge any attempt to discriminate against the party by excluding it.
"Sinn Fein will take every opportunity to present and promote its policies and positions," a party spokesman said.
The Labour Party has confirmed that leaded Ed Miliband is "ready to take part in all three debates" planned for television before the General Election.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has said that "fewer people want business-as-usual politics" as she responded to the announcement that more parties will be invited to televised debates.
First Minister for Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said the case for including her party in televised debates was "unanswerable".
Latest ITV News reports
Broadcasters issue new proposal for TV debates ahead of General Election - with plans to continue if any party leader refuses to take part.