How can I watch the General Election?

Your guide to the main channel's election night coverage and what times to tune in

FILE PHOTO (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF IMAGES - Image numbers 1083542594,1173062971 - GRADIENT ADDED) In this composite image a comparison has been made between Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Leader (L) and Boris Johnson, Prime Minister and Conservative Leader. ***LEFT IMAGE*** HASTINGS, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech at a rally at St Mary's in the Castle on January 17, 2019 in Hastings, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May last night won a vote of no-confidence called by Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn after the Government's historic defeat on the meaningful vote on Brexit. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE***  MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech onstage on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 2, 2019 in Manchester, England. The U.K. government prepares to formally submit its finalised Brexit plan to the EU today. The offer replaces the Northern Irish Backstop with border, customs and regulatory checks lasting until 2025. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

We’re fast approaching election day, and as voters across the country prepare to head to the polls the main TV channels are all putting the finishing touches to preparations for their election night coverage.

Advertisement

As ever the big hitters BBC, ITV and Sky News are all providing their usual combination of reporting and analysis, while Channel 4 once again opts for an ‘Alternative Election Night.’

Of course, the election coverage doesn’t end when all the votes have been counted, and there will be plenty of analysis in the aftermath as pundits and politicians perform a post-mortem on the results. Here’s a roundup on what coverage you can expect from each channel… 

BBC One

Election 2019 – 9:55pm on Thursday 12th December –  1pm on Friday 13th December

Huw Edwards in N9 news studio for the Ten O'Clock news

For so many years, David Dimbleby has been the person responsible for fronting BBC’s election coverage – with the veteran broadcaster first hosting for the corporation all the way back in 1979.

But with Dimbleby having announced that 2017 would be his last election as anchor, he is replaced this year by Huw Edwards. Meanwhile many of the BBC’s established line-up of correspondents will be reporting from key counts around the nation, including Andrew Marr, Nick Robinson, Lucy Manning, Martha Kearney, Sarah Smith and Kirsty Wark.

Jeremy Vine will take up his usual position at the swingometer, while Andrew Neil will grill a range of leading political figures and there will be analysis from Sir John Curtice, Reeta Chakrabati, Laura Kuennsberg and Faisal Islam.

On Friday morning Emily Maitlis will take over the coverage, with Clive Myrie reporting from outside 10 Downing Street as the Prime Minister is confirmed.

Last time out the BBC won the ratings battle, claiming 39% of the audience share from 10pm-2am, and aside from Edwards taking over from Dimbleby there’s unlikely to be many changes to the nature of the national broadcaster’s tried and tested coverage. 

ITV

Election 2019 Live: The Results – 9:55pm on Thursday 12th December – 6am on Friday 13th December

From Multistory Media production ELECTION 2019 LIVE: THE RESULTS Thursday 12th December 2019 on ITV Pictured: Ed Balls and George Osborne Photographer: David Emery (C) ITV For further information please contact Peter Gray 0207 157 3046 peter.gray@itv.com This photograph is © ITV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme ELECTION 2019 LIVE: THE RESULTS or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website https://www.itv.com/presscentre/itvpictures/terms

It falls to Tom Brady to present ITV’s election night coverage, with a supporting cast including the channel’s political editor Robert Peston, Professor Jane Green and Professor Colin Rallings – the latter of whom has been involved with ITV’s election analysis for over three decades.

The night will also see a range of former political bigwigs provide their opinion and analysis, including Evening Standard editor and former Tory chancellor George Osborne and ex Labour minister and shadow home secretary Ed Balls, both of whom also appeared as part of ITV’s election coverage in 2017.

ITV drew praise from viewers and critics for its election night coverage last time out despite it’s viewing figures falling well behind BBC, with Osborne attracting particular praise.

Election 2019 Live – 9:25am-2pm on Friday 13th November

After a short break for Good Morning Britain, the coverage continues – with Julia Etchingham now in the presenter’s chair. Etchingham will be joined by ITV’s political experts as they discuss the results so far and what shape the government looks likely to take.

Channel 4

Channel 4's Alternative Election Night
Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night
Channel 4

Alternative Election Night – 9:55pm on Thursday 12th December – 6am on Friday 13th December

Rather than taking on BBC and ITV at their own game, Channel 4 has established a tradition for providing a slightly different take on election coverage. This year’s host line-up partners popular news anchor Krishnan Guru-Murphy with comedian Katherine Ryan and the ubiquitous Rylan Clark-Neal, while Clare Balding, political comedian Matt Forde and Rob Rinder are all involved as well.

Given the line-up it’s no surprise that alongside the political analysis there is also a fair share of humour, with a mixture of political experts and satirists giving their views as the results pour in.

Although it came behind both BBC and Channel 4 in the ratings in 2017, Channel 4’s coverage provides a good option for those looking for a slightly more light-hearted view on the night’s events – though without losing the political analysis that is a must on election night.

Sky News

John Bercow
John Bercow (Getty, FT)

The Brexit Election – 9pm on Thursday 12th December – 5pm on Friday 13th December

Recently departed Speaker of the House John Bercow is arguably the biggest pull of Sky’s coverage this year, with the former Conservative MP joining Sky News anchor Dermot Murnaghan to provide insight and opinion. There will also be plenty of input throughout the night from political editor Beth Rigby, deputy political editor Sam Coates and economics editor Ed Conway.

John Ryley, the head of Sky News said, “It promises to be a night of political frenzy with the very future of the United Kingdom at stake.

“I’m confident this will be Sky News’ biggest, boldest election night programme, covering every twist and turn of the night, with explanation and analysis for all audiences.”

The coverage during the next morning will include a special edition of Kay Burley’s breakfast show and an All Out Politics special with Adam Boulton, as the team begins to make sense of the results and what it means for the next government.

What time is the General Election exit poll, when is the first vote count in and when is the final result?

The first time to look out for is the release of the exit poll, which are expected to be announced as the polls close at 10pm. This will give us the first picture of how we can expect the night to unfold, with exit polls having historically been famously accurate – and often providing a surprise or two! As has been the case for several elections in a row, BBC News, ITV News and Sky News will release a combined exit poll.

The next important time is the conclusion of the first count and announcement of the first results. Traditionally Newcastle and Sunderland – both seen as safe Labour seats – race to be first to announce, with that normally coming in at around 11pm.

From then on, announcements from individual constituencies continue to steadily pour in, and it can be difficult to predict exactly when we’ll have a fuller picture. Generally speaking, though, we can expect to have a pretty good idea of what the new Parliament is going to look like at around 2am.

Advertisement

The final counts often don’t get announced until early the next morning – but we can expect to have a final result by midday, with Berwick-upon-Tweed, Blyth Valley, Wansbeck normally the final constituencies to declare.