19/04/2017 19:03 BST

Kay Burley Rows With Tory MP Dominic Raab Over 'Skewed' TV Debates

'You’re aware of the 2003 Communications Act aren’t you?'

Just over an hour after MPs voted for a June general election, the first media dust-up of the campaign was delivered.

While the UK faces major challenges ranging from Brexit and economic inequality, to a housing shortage and the deficit, the row centred on the issue most exercising broadcast media: whether there will be TV debates.

So far, Theresa May has ruled out a live face-to-face with Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders, though the BBC and ITV have signalled they will go ahead with debates even if she ducks out.

Broadcasters argue that the huge audience provided by TV is good for democracy and the ratings boost is an incentive for them to make that case.

And so, when quizzing Conservative MP and ex-minister Dominic Raab on Sky News, presenter Kay Burley wasn’t going to miss the chance to press home the point.

Burley cited an online Sky News poll suggesting 65% of the public backed TV debates. It turned a hum-drum exchange into a frosty one.

Burley: “The public want a TV debate, (Theresa May) is running scared.”

Raab: “I think that’s nonsense.”

Raab, a key player in the official Vote Leave campaign, argued, as many have, that the accuracy of a “self-selecting” online poll was “open to debate”, and said doorstep campaigning was a “real place to get the message directly across to voters”.

This was opposed to “the forum of a very skewed televised debate that is moderated in a certain way”, he said.

This got the journalist’s hackles up and a passive aggressive back-and-forth ensued.

 Burley: “Woah there. No, no, no, no. What on earth are you trying to suggest there?”

Raab: “What, that the media try and skew political debate?”

Burley: “You’re saying a TV debate is skewed. You’re aware of Ofcom rules, the 2003 Communications Act, aren’t you?”

Raab, after a long pause, suggested he did not hear the question.

Burley: “I said, you are aware of Ofcom and the 2003 Communications Act. So you cannot skew a political debate. Political parties have to have the same amount of time on air in that sort of debate. I think you’re on dodgy ground there, Mr Raab.”

Raab: “No I’m not. You’re trying to make a legal point.”

Burley: “Yes you are.”

Raab: “Can I answer the question, Kay?”

Burley: “Certainly.”

Raab: “Or do you want to answer your own question ... I think when you’ve got a whole bunch of candidates stuck up there trying to talk across each other ... actually the public don’t get so much of a look in as you are suggesting.” 

Seven weeks to go, folks.