Sky News announced last night that it wants to launch a live TV debate between the main party leaders in the run-up to the election next year.
Conservative leader David Cameron has since written to Sky News boss John Ryley giving his backing for a televised debate. Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg has also previously indicated his support for the idea, although prime minister Gordon Brown is thought to prefer sticking with Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament.
Writing in The Times, Ryley confirmed that the Sky News coverage would not be exclusive to his channel but instead be made available to other broadcasters.
However, DS has learned that ITV sees more sense in staging multiple different live debates on separate TV networks, with differing formats and approaches. This could potentially open up options such as direct questions from a studio audience or from a panel of journalists to improve the quality and diversity of the process.
For its own approach, ITV would hope to stage the debate on ITV1 with Alastair Stewart acting as host and all three leaders present to discuss their policies and answer questions. The broadcaster is also working "closely" with the BBC to explore other options.
Commenting on the potential of live political debates, ITV director of news, current affairs and sport Michael Jermey said: "ITV believes that a series of leaders' debates through the general election campaign would be good for viewers and voters.
"There have been conversations over recent weeks and we remain committed to finding a proposal that will make the debates a reality. ITV and the BBC are working closely together on this and we welcome involvement from other broadcasters.
"We envisage a debate on ITV1 hosted by Alastair Stewart and would like all the party leaders to take part. We would expect the ITV1 debate to be one of a number of such programmes broadcast on British TV during the campaign.
"The party leaders debating live on television would help increase interest in the election and can only be good for democracy. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the first presidential election debate in America. It's high time that British politics caught up.
"Viewers and voters should have a right to see the major party leaders engage in direct face-to-face debate during the general election campaign. It would be good for democracy".