Industry bodies Free TV Australia and Commercial Radio Australia have backed the recommendation by the country’s Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for the removal of what is described as “archaic restrictions” on political advertising on television and radio.
The Committee, chaired by Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, unanimously called on the government to give consideration to amending the provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 that prohibit broadcasters showing any election advertisements in the three days before an election. The restriction does not apply to print or online advertising.
The Committee’s report noted that the current television and radio advertising blackout “does nothing to stop broader electioneering on those days. Moreover, many voters cast their votes before election day, and voters need not be shielded from electioneering in order to make well-considered votes.”
Free TV Australia CEO, Bridget Fair, said, “The election advertising blackout is arcane and outdated and we fully support the committee’s recommendation to get rid of it.
“The restriction was introduced more than a quarter of a century ago and has been made redundant by changes in the media industry, in particular, the rise of online media. It’s farcical that broadcasters have to adhere to the three-day blackout, while the unregulated digital platforms can run ads right up to – and on – election day.
“It makes absolutely no sense that come election day, the only place you won’t find a political ad is on television or radio,” she said.
Joan Warner, chief executive officer of Commercial Radio Australia said, “This election advertising blackout rule is an old restriction that hasn’t caught up with modern media.
“We’re very pleased the Senate Legal Committee has now also unanimously voiced concerns regarding ‘the appropriateness of the electoral advertising blackout’ in a changing media landscape. This advertising blackout has a significant financial impact on local radio broadcasters, and we welcome its removal as soon as possible to remove inequity in the marketplace and end the differential treatment of local radio stations.”
“It’s time to modernise the many outdated laws that disadvantage commercial free-to-air television broadcasters in competing with new media platforms,” said Free TV Australia CEO, Bridget Fair. “Ditching the ban on television and radio ads in the three days before an election is a logical and fair first step.”
Under the current regulatory imbalance, three days before an election, political ads cannot be placed on local radio but can be placed in digital media, print, direct and outdoor as well as being sent by sms directly to personal to mobile phones right up until the closing of the polls.