The Electoral Commission has referred the radio Network to the police for broadcasting election programmes for United Future on 25 October 2011.
It is the Electoral Commission’s view that the broadcasts for United Future on 25 October constituted a breach of section 70 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 because broadcasters were prohibited from broadcasting election programmes for a political party outside of the election period for the 2011 General Election, which began on 26 October and ended on 25 November 2011.
Why should broadcasters be singled out for restrictions which don’t apply to other media, especially now that video and audio content can be posted on the internet?
Why on earth has it taken four months for the commission to make a referral?
Why waste police time on a relatively minor breach when they’ve shown no appetite to act on more serious ones?
Whatever the answer to those questions, this referral is yet more evidence that our electoral law needs further reform.
One of the aims of electoral law is to prevent parties gaining an unfair advantage.
If it is to be effective suspected breaches should be acted on within the election period not months afterwards.
And given reluctance shown by police to take any action in the past it would be better to give the Commission the power to deal with breaches itself.