This information is for broadcasters, parties and candidates involved in broadcast election advertising. Please ensure you have read the Election broadcast advertising overview as it provides background and information essential to understanding this page such as what broadcast election advertising is (and is not) and an overview of the requirements of both electorate candidates and parties contesting the party vote. The relevant law is in the Broadcasting Act 1998 Part 6 unless indicated otherwise.
When may broadcasters carry election advertising?
- Parties and electorate candidates may only run election advertising on radio and television between Writ Day and midnight on the day before election day.
- Television may not carry election advertising on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, or between 6am and noon on any Sunday or on Anzac Day.
- Radio may not carry election advertising on Christmas Day, Good Friday or Easter Sunday.
What should broadcasters, parties and candidates be aware of when negotiating, placing and accepting broadcast election advertising bookings?
- There is no restriction on when broadcasters may begin to accept bookings for broadcast election advertising, but parties should check that any bookings made are within the amount and any conditions of allocation.
- By law, the same rate card and terms (including any volume discounts and bonus allocation) must be offered to all parties and the same rate card and terms (including any volume discounts and bonus allocation) must be offered to all candidates.
- Party (not candidate) broadcast election advertising is eligible for Government Volume Incentive Discount.
- Bookings should record clearly whether it is for a party or a (named) candidate.
- Broadcasters should ensure their internal procedures and systems will help them: observe the law in terms of what is run and when, support timely and accurate invoicing, and filing of the broadcaster's return.
Who has final responsibility for the content and running of an advertisement?
Broadcasters are responsible for standards including taste and decency, maintenance of law and order, privacy, and relevant approved codes of broadcasting practice. Broadcasters do not have a requirement to provide balance to election advertisements as they are required for news, comment and current affairs. The Broadcasting Standards Authority is responsible for approving the codes which exist for each media type, as well as for election advertising.
Must election advertising include a promoter statement?
Yes. All election advertisements must include a promoter statement. An advertisement broadcast should contain a statement along the lines of "Promoted/authorised by NAME OF PROMOTER, PROMOTER'S RELEVANT FULL STREET ADDRESS".
Can an electorate candidate's broadcast election advertisement promote their party?
It may refer to the candidate's party name and the party's policies to promote the candidate's own election but must not encourage a party vote or promote the party list.
Can a broadcast election advertisement promote a named party list candidate as such?
Only when paid for out of a party allocation.
Can negative advertising be run?
Only by a political party, paid for out of its broadcast allocation, against another party or other parties, and complying with all the other requirements. Electorate candidates cannot broadcast negative advertising.
Can a broadcast election advertisement promote more than one electorate candidate for a party?
Only when paid in full out of a party's broadcasting allocation while also apportioning the cost between relevant candidates' election expense limit and donation returns as may be required. Electorate candidates may not pay for a shared broadcast election advertisement with their own funds (unlike for other types of advertising).
What special considerations should community access broadcasters keep in mind with election-related programmes?
Broadcasters and their programme providers should consider and be clear as to whether a programme falls under the provisions applying to news, comment or current affairs, or to those applying to broadcast election advertising. Factors that will influence this judgment will include who is paying for the programme, who determines the format, its character and content.
If it is broadcast election advertising then it must meet the relevant requirements of part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Broadcasting Standards Authority codes, and broadcasters must submit a return of all they broadcast. Failure to do so is an offence. The broadcast election advertising must include an authorisation statement and its cost must be included in the statement of expenses submitted by a party or candidate after the election.
If it is a news, comments or current affairs programme then it must meet the relevant Broadcasting Standards Authority codes. These programmes have a primary aim to inform the public, have a range of viewpoints rather than one, and provide objective and impartial reporting. Other important factors are that parties or candidates did not pay and did not determine the format.
Example 1: One of the regular interest group programmes, using the normal host and graphics for the programme, describes how to enrol, where to vote and how MMP works. Then it has:
- footage following two local candidates as they attend meetings, deliver leaflets etc.
- talks to some voters about how interested they are in the election
- mentions the names of all candidates standing locally
This example falls clearly into the news, comment or current affairs category.
Example 2: A community language programme has a regular community guest slot. In the week before the election the guest is a candidate who is a native speaker of that language. After talking about the election and the importance of voting the candidate says 'make sure you go to vote next Saturday and vote for me'.
Through the last statement the candidate has moved this from a current affairs programme to broadcast election advertising.
Example 3: A new group seeks a weekly slot four months before the election is due. Their proposed programme has a magazine style, current affairs format. They say they will only interview people and present views from a particular political perspective. At the end of the election campaign the broadcaster discovers that the key people involved in creating the programme were also the campaign organisers for a political party.
Here the facts that campaign organisers for a party determined the format and paid for the programme mean that it is no longer clearly a current affairs programme.
How can community access broadcasters to stay out of trouble?
- Ensure no candidates are hosts during the election period
- Do not feature party or candidate logos, posters, billboards etc other than incidentally
- Ensure an emphasis on information for voters
- List other candidates and parties if they are not all interviewed
- Pay particular attention to who pays for the programmes and who determines the format (regulars too)
- Ensure all programmes during the election period are paid for by regulars who are not associated with parties or candidates
- Offer election programmes to all parties at the same rates.
Does an on-air employee of a broadcaster who is a candidate have to stop presenting their programme during the election campaign?
Broadcasters and their employees must make their own judgements on this issue taking into account ethical, legal and employment considerations. The advice for community access broadcasters may also be useful.
In terms of the Broadcasting Act 1989, if the programme can clearly be seen as news, comment and current affairs then the programme itself needs to be judged against the relevant codes of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, such as a requirement for balance.
However, if the programme is partisan to the extent that it is clearly advocating for or against a party or candidate then the programme may fit within the definition of an election programme and activate the appropriate requirements and possible offence provisions.
What offences are there relating to election broadcasting that broadcasters should be particularly aware of?
The Broadcasting Act 1989 provides that failure to comply with any of the following sections is an offence subject to a maximum fine of $100,000:
- broadcasting an election programme of a type that is not permitted or outside the relevant permitted time period s.70.
- failing to provide free time as offered or the same terms of trade to all parties s.77(1).
- broadcasting an election programme outside permitted days or hours s.79A.
- not offering or giving identical terms of business to all parties s.79B.
- not offering or giving identical terms of business to all candidates s.79B.
- not completing a return on time or correctly s.79C.
Also, in an election period it is an offence to arrange for the broadcast of or to broadcast on behalf of a political party any programme or advertisement other than those meeting the requirements of the Broadcasting Act 1989 part 6. s.80.
There are also offences in the Electoral Act 1993 that may be relevant.