The Conservative Party is embroiled in a row with Channel 4 over the broadcaster’s decision to “empty chair” Boris Johnson during its election debate on climate change last night.
Minister Michael Gove offered to take his place, but the broadcaster said the invitation was for leaders only.
The party wrote to Ofcom saying placing an ice sculpture on the PM’s podium was a “provocative partisan stunt”.
Labour has accused Mr Johnson of “hiding from scrutiny”.
Urging the regulator to take action against Channel 4, the Conservative Party accused the broadcaster of breaking its duty to be impartial and citing other alleged examples of bias.
- Live: Latest from the campaign trial
- Climate debate fact-checked
- Parties to be quizzed in seven-way BBC debate
In a letter to Ofcom, the party says Channel 4 News staged a “provocative partisan stunt, which would itself constitute making a political opinion in its own right” by substituting the PM with an ice sculpture.
Channel 4’s public service broadcasting licence is up for renewal in 2024.
Former Conservative culture minister Ed Vaizey – who is not standing for re-election as an MP – said it was “perfectly legitimate” for the party to complain to the regulator about their lack of representation in the debate.
But he said it was not “sensible” for political parties to “threaten” broadcasters and he would be “disappointed” if the Conservatives took the matter any further after the election.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said the move was “deeply concerning” and urged the regulator to “call out this meddling”.
In a letter to Ofcom, he added: “Boris Johnson has banned the Daily Mirror from its battle bus, ducked the Andrew Neil interview and now attempted to bully Channel 4.”
Mr Gove, a former environment secretary, said he was disappointed not to be allowed to take part in the climate debate, adding: “We have a record we are proud of and we want to defend.”
- How to watch the BBC’s seven-way election debate
- PM refuses to confirm Andrew Neil interview
- BBC complains to Tories over Facebook advert
Channel 4 also replaced Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage with ice in the hour-long programme.
Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear said: “These two ice sculptures represent the emergency on planet earth, not in any human form but are a visual metaphor for the Conservative and Brexit parties after their leaders declined our repeated invitations to attend tonight’s vital climate debate.”
The Emergency On Planet Earth debate featured Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price and Green co-leader Sian Berry.
“Empty chairing” is where a debate or interview is conducted without one of its participants.
‘Hiding from scrutiny’
Meanwhile, Labour has published 60 questions it wants Boris Johnson to answer, including on sexism, the NHS, Brexit and media scrutiny.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has accused Mr Johnson of “running scared”, saying it was a “matter of honour” that he subjected himself to the fullest possible questioning.
On Thursday, Mr Johnson refused to say whether he would agree to an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, who has already grilled Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, and is planning to interview other party leaders.
When asked several times by the BBC’s Ben Wright if he would take part, Boris Johnson would not confirm it, saying he would have “all sorts of interviews with all sorts of people”.
Mr Johnson – who was interviewed by Mr Neil during the Conservative leadership election in July – confirmed negotiations were still taking place, but he said it was “not my job” to make the final decision.
He added: “Other people than me are responsible for those discussions and negotiations, and I do not want to pre-empt what they may decide.”
The BBC’s interview with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson is set to air on 4 December and another with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage will be shown on 5 December – but no interview with the prime minister has been agreed as yet.
The BBC said it was “in ongoing discussions” with No 10, but said they had not “yet been able to fix a date” for the sit-down discussion between presenter Mr Neil and the PM.
The Conservatives said the prime minister had agreed to be interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday. Mr Corbyn and Ms Swinson have already appeared on that show during the election campaign.
Meanwhile, a BBC seven-way election debate takes place later featuring senior figures from the Conservatives, Labour, the Brexit Party, the Green Party, as well as the leaders of Plaid Cymru, the SNP, and Lib Dems.
Do you have any questions about the forthcoming election?
In some cases your question will be published, displaying your name, age and location as you provide it, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.
Use this form to ask your question:
If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or send them via email to . Please include your name, age and location with any question you send in.