The Commission is required under Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 to allocate money appropriated by Parliament to enable all registered political parties to broadcast election programmes and election advertising during the election period for a general election (‘the broadcasting allocation’).
Following the enactment of the Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Act 2017, the Commission is no longer required to allocate free time for party opening and closing addresses. Eligible parties are now able to use their broadcasting allocation on the internet.
The Commission commenced the allocation process for the 2017 general election in February 2017 with a view to issuing the allocation decision in May. On 1 February, the Prime Minister announced that the 2017 general election will be held on 23 September.
For more information on the 2017 broadcasting allocation process and decision see the Commission's full decision here.
Amount of public money appropriated
On 21 February, in accordance with section 74, the Associate Minister of Justice notified the Commission that the amount of money appropriated by Parliament to enable political parties to fund their broadcasting of election programmes and election advertising for the 2017 general election is $3,605,000 plus GST ($4,145,750 incl GST). This is a $750,000 increase on the amount allocated in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014.
Section 78(1) specifies that a party is only eligible to receive an allocation if it:
- has provided a notice of qualification by the date required by the Commission that the party considers it will be qualified for an allocation; and
- the party was registered on the Register of Political Parties at the time of the dissolution or expiry of Parliament.
In the year in which Parliament is due to expire, the Commission advertises in the Gazette the date by which parties must give notice that they consider themselves eligible for an allocation of broadcasting money. For the 2017 allocation the Gazette notice was published on 2 February and the deadline for parties to give notice was 3 March.
Any party can give notice that they believe they will be qualified, but parties have to be registered to continue to qualify for an allocation. An unregistered party can give notice in anticipation that they believe they will be registered by the date of dissolution of Parliament.
Though other parties could be registered before a general election, if they did not give notice to the Commission by the required date, they cannot be considered for an allocation in accordance with section 78(1)(a).
Broadcasting allocation criteria
Section 78(2) sets out the criteria to which the Commission must have regard when determining the allocation.
The criteria are:
- the number of persons who voted at the preceding general election for a party and its candidates; and
- the number of persons who voted at any by-election held since the preceding general election for any candidate for the party; and
- the number of members of Parliament who were members of a party immediately before the dissolution or expiration of Parliament; and
- any relationships that exist between a party and any other party; and
- any other indications of public support for a party, such as the results of public opinion polls and the number of persons who are members of the party; and
- the need to provide a fair opportunity for each party to convey its policies to the public by the broadcasting of election programmes on television.
Although parties may use their allocation on television, radio and now the internet, the fairness criteria still only refers to television.
How parties can use the allocation
Parties may use the allocation to buy advertising time on television and radio, place advertising on the internet and pay for the production costs of television, radio and internet advertising. The Act prohibits parties from using their own money to buy time to broadcast television and radio advertisements. However, production costs for television and radio advertising can be paid for using the allocation or a party’s own funds. Television and radio advertisements can only be broadcast from writ day.
Parties may use the allocation to produce election advertisements and to place advertising on the internet before and after writ day. However, parties must use their own money to place election advertisements on the internet that only appear before writ day. Parties may use their allocation to produce internet advertisements, but parties must publish these advertisements both before and after writ day.
Parties will be required to file an audited return of broadcasting allocation expenses incurred by the party (for the 2017 general election, by 21 February 2018).