Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's not the Electoral Finance Act this time

Keeping Stock has noticed that the Dominion Post has reported on an Access Radio station too scared to run foul of the law and run interviews with local candidates. He says it is the fault of the Electoral Finance Act.

He's wrong.

It's the electoral rules in the Broadcasting Act that is the problem - which the article makes quite clear.
It's important not to think this is one of these Electoral Finance Act issues - it's not. The Broadcasting Act's got a definition of what an election programme is. That hasn't changed.
I was made aware of this case earlier in the week and spoke with the person who leaked this story to the media. The problem is part 6 of the Broadcasting Act, specifically the definition of “election programme” in section 69,, and section 70. Under section 80, it is an offence not to comply with section 70. These sections were part of the reason why the Electoral Commission reported Shane Jones to the Police, except he breached the Electoral Finance Act as well.

So blaming the Electoral Finance Act for Access Radios failure to broadcast these interviews is rather ignorant when it clearly has nothing to do with it. Actually there is nothing prohibiting the broadcasting of these interviews in a current affairs programme provided it does not come across as an election programme.

It appears that the Access Radio station manager has been spooked by the advice of the Electoral Commission and does not want to run the risk. Yet there is absolutely no reason why he cannot run opening and closing statements from each candidate in a balanced way - he just point blank refuses to do it.

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