Welcome changes to election broadcasting

Justice and Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams says a planned refresh of the outdated format of election broadcasts will modernise them in time for the 2017 General Election.

Ms Adams announced today that the Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Bill will be introduced to Parliament next week.

The Bill will remove the requirement for political parties’ opening and closing election broadcasts to be aired on television and radio. It will also remove the requirement for TVNZ and Radio NZ to provide free time for these.

“The addresses are an outdated format and declining audience numbers show they are not effective at engaging voters,” says Ms Adams.

For example, during opening addresses in 2014, TVNZ received 25 per cent fewer viewers than they would usually get.

This is a very welcome change.

Compelling TVNZ and Radio NZ to broadcast the opening and closing statements has long passed its use-by date.

I’m a political tragic and partisan but I only watched National’s broadcasts out of loyalty and gave up on the other parties’ broadcasts after a very few minutes.

“Reform of opening and closing addresses was recommended by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee in their Inquiry into the 2014 General Election. Both TVNZ and Radio NZ welcome the proposed change.”

The Bill recognises the growing use of digital and online media. As well as television and radio, parties will now be allowed to use their allocation for advertising online.

“I hope that by giving parties more flexibility in how they communicate their messages, more voters will engage in the electoral process,” says Ms Adams.

“Parties will continue to be able to spend their own money on online advertising while funding for television and radio advertising remains limited to the funding allocated by the Electoral Commission.”

I accept a cap on overall spending but parties should be free to decide how much of the allowable amount they spend on which medium.

To offset the reduction in time that parties are given to address voters, the Government has agreed to increase election advertising funding by $750,000. This brings the budget to $3.605 million.

I’d prefer no public funding of advertising at all.

Political parties are voluntary organisations. All their activities, including election advertising, should be funded by members, donors and and other fundraising not taxes.

The criteria the Electoral Commission uses for allocating funding between parties, as well as other rules for election advertising and expenses, will not change.

It is expected the new Bill will eventually be considered alongside the Electoral Amendment Bill, which recently had its first reading in Parliament. The changes in both Bills are intended to be in time for the 2017 General Election.

There’s a Q&A on the changes here.


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