Impartiality and coalition government
We're all in new territory: government, opposition - and broadcasters. Coming to terms with the "new politics" of coalition sets us some new challenges, just as we're trying to recover our breath from the extraordinary events of recent weeks.
There's already been much speculation about the question of "balance". Especially during the campaign, we're used to hearing the views of the different parties on any given issue and seeing them represented on programmes such as Question Time and Any Questions. So if the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are in together, what happens? Do they both get a say?
Firstly, it's important - if obvious - to register that we're no longer in the run-up to a general election. And there is no mathematical formula for deciding what constitutes "balance". Neither is there a requirement for the BBC to think about its coverage in that way once voters have had their say. The key obligation for us has to be due impartiality - which means taking account of the present political context and making good editorial judgements about fairness, reflecting the different strands of all the main arguments.
And those judgements will vary from programme to programme, genre to genre.
Clearly, in our normal news journalism, reporting on what the government is saying or doing, it will normally not make sense to have both government parties saying the same thing. Where the "Liberal-Conservative" administration is speaking with one voice, that's what we will reflect, along with the different voices of opposition parties. Of course, on some issues, we may want to illustrate the different emphasis and nuance the partners bring to a particular story.
For the more set-piece formats, such as Question Time and Any Questions, where politicians are speaking more broadly across the range of political issues, then it's worth stepping back and considering some first principles. Editorially, such programmes look to have contributors who approach issues from different perspectives and encompass a breadth of arguments. But they are also often discussing issues which are not necessarily just about government and opposition - and not just about the politics of Westminster.
One of the fascinating aspects to these new arrangements will be how far the respective leaders are able to carry their own parties with them. In capturing the range of views, it will be particularly relevant to hear the voices of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats outside the government - including, as well as "dissidents", those who operate outside Westminster, where the shifting political relationships are different - Scotland, Wales, the European Parliament and local government. These are places where parties working together - yet standing against each other in elections - is now rather old hat. And in Northern Ireland, the complexities of representing different political views from parties sharing the responsibilities of government are, to say the least, rather more challenging than the new ones at Westminster.
Mostly, then, in discussions or packages the coalition will only need one representative - Conservative or Liberal Democrat. But where it's the party being represented, taking a different (though not necessarily opposing) stance, it may well be perfectly in order to have representatives from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
Either way, we will still want to make sure that all political parties continue to get fair representation, in relation to their electoral support, across our output.
We need to look at where the pivot of argument lies - sometimes it will, of course, still be between the political parties. But sometimes it will be between front-bench and back-bench; sometimes between Westminster and other political structures; sometimes between different factions of the same party.
So we should not make hard-and-fast rules, or try to construct formulas for the "new politics" - not least because we are, for the government of the UK at least, in unchartered waters heading in an uncertain direction. What we should do is to carry on making good and fair editorial judgements according to the particular circumstances and the many different sorts of journalism we do. Not such new territory after all.
Ric Bailey is the BBC's chief political adviser.