The UK's first ever televised debates with the leaders of the three main political parties will be held on 15, 22 and 29 April.

BBC, Sky and ITV will each host one of the debates, which are expected to last around 90 minutes.

According to an update from Sky News' Facebook fanpage dedicated to coverage of the debates, its leaders' debate will take place on 22 April "at 8:00pm somewhere in the south west of England".

"We've received thousands of questions for the leaders, both on International Affairs (our main theme) and many other issues," says executive producer for the programme, John McAndrew, in the update, which follows confirmation from Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the UK general election will be held on 6 May.

David Dimbleby with host the final debate for the BBC on 29 April, according to reports, leaving the opening debate to Alastair Stewart and ITV on 15 April.

The three programmes will feature a "pre-determined theme" for half of their airtime, says a release from the BBC, and the debates will be broadcast live in mid-evening slots. Members of the audience will be allowed to ask questions and viewers will be invited to submit questions in advance by email.

A full rundown of the programme format and rules agreed by the broadcasters and parties has been published on the BBC's website, which has now launched its Election 2010 microsite.

At a recent event on the role of new media in the election, some audience members criticised restrictions on audience involvement in the debates, such as a requirement for audience members not to applaud during the event to save time. BBC political editor Nick Robinson, who was speaking at the event, responded to the criticism:

"There's a cynicism about the rules here that is over the top. There are things you won’t get, but there are things you will get because they’ve ruled out the bear pit. They’ve ruled out the heckling and shouting. To get three guys to agree with this they had to set some rules."

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