Political Matters & Election Coverage

CBAA News, 22nd August 2012
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Community broadcasters work to pursue the principles of democracy, access and equity and demonstrate independence in programming as well as in editorial and management decisions. This commitment extends to our coverage the broadcasting and communication of political and election matter.

It should also be noted that political and election matter is regulated by broadcast law. The Broadcasting Services Act (1992) stipulates broadcast law regarding media coverage of local, state and federal elections. It is the responsibility of every community broadcaster to ensure that these laws are observed, as a condition of the station's licence. For the purposes of community broadcasters, please consider any reference to advertising to include sponsorship broadcast on a community broadcasting licensee.

What is political matter?

‘Political matter’ means any political matter, including the policy launch of a political party, but is not confined to material broadcast in the context of an election campaign.

If the broadcast of the political matter was authorised by a person other than a political party, the ‘required particulars’ include:

  • the name of the person who authorised the broadcast of the political matter; and
  • the town, city or suburb in which the person lives or, if the person is a corporation or association, in which the principal office of the person is situated; and
  • the name of every speaker who, either in person or by means of a sound recording device, delivers an address or makes a statement that forms part of that matter.

The broadcast of required particulars in the approved form ensures that, whenever political matter is broadcast at the request of another person:

  • listeners and viewers are informed about who is trying to persuade them to think or to act in response to political matters; and
  • people authorising this type of material are accountable for it.

Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 are licence conditions that apply to community broadcasting licensees and contain provisions that deal with access, timing and identification in relation to the broadcast of political and election matter. Election matter, political matter and election period are all defined in clause 1 of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act, available here.

Please note that for community broadcasting licensees, political advertisements must be appropriately  "tagged" eg. "This political announcement was sponsored and authorised by XXX party".

Access for all parties

Clause 3 of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act requires that if any election matter is broadcast during an election period by a broadcaster, then that broadcaster must give all political parties contesting the election a reasonable opportunity to have election matter broadcast during the election period provided that they were represented in the relevant Parliament at the time it last met before the election period.

Blackout period for election advertising

Clause 3A of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act requires that a broadcaster must not broadcast an election advertisement from the end of the Wednesday before the polling day until the close of the poll on polling day, where an election is to be held in an area which relates to a licence area, or an area where a broadcast can normally be received. This only applies for elections to a Parliament.

The election advertising blackout applies to community broadcasting licensees.

Identifying certain political matter

Subclause 4(2) of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act requires that, when broadcasting political matter at the request of another person, a broadcaster must cause the announcement of certain particulars in a form approved by the ACMA.

The following is the approved form for announcement of the required particulars, as defined in clause 1 of Schedule 2 of the Broadcasting Services Act:

  • if the political matter is broadcast by radio, the broadcaster shall cause the required particulars to be broadcast in the form of a spoken announcement

  • if the political matter is broadcast by television, the broadcaster shall cause the required particulars (other than those contained in paragraph (c) of the definition of required particulars in clause 1 of Schedule 2) to be broadcast in the form of a spoken announcement, and cause all the required particulars to be broadcast in the form of images or words

  • in all cases, the required particulars must be broadcast in the same language as the political matter.

The announcement must include details of the person authorising the political matter. A person authorises the broadcast only if they are responsible for the approval of its content and the decision to present it for broadcasting.

This condition applies at all times.

The particulars required to be broadcast about political matter are defined in Clause 1 of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act as:

  1. if the broadcasting was authorised by a political party:
    1. the name of the political party;
    2. the town, city or suburb in which the principal office of the political party is situated; and
    3. the name of the natural person responsible for giving effect to the authorisation; and
  2. if the broadcasting of the political matter was authorised by a person other than a political party:
    1. the name of the person who authorised the broadcasting of the political matter; and
    2. the town, city or suburb in which the person lives or, if the person is a corporation or association, in which the principal office is situated; and
  3. the name of every speaker who, either in person or by means of a sound recording device, delivers an address or makes a statement that forms part of that matter. 
Keeping records of political matter broadcast at the request of another person

Subclause 4(3) of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act requires that a broadcaster must keep, for the required period, a record of the name, address and occupation of the person (or the name and address of the principal office, if the person is a company) that requests the broadcast of political matter. The required period is the longer of six weeks from the date of the broadcast or until the day on which the election ends (if the matter relates to an election or referendum and was broadcast during the relevant election period). The ACMA can direct a broadcaster (in writing) to keep records for a longer period.

These records must be given to the ACMA if requested by written notice.

Records relating to broadcast of a political subject or current affairs

Subclauses 5(2), (3), (6) and (8) of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act require that, if a broadcaster broadcasts matter that is in the form of news, an address, a statement, a commentary or discussion, and that matter relates to a political subject or current affairs, then the broadcaster must make a record of the matter in a form approved by the ACMA. The record must be kept for six weeks, or 60 days if a complaint has been made about the matter. The ACMA can direct a broadcaster in writing to retain a record for a longer period in particular circumstances. A broadcaster must make the record available to the ACMA at no charge.

This condition applies at all times.

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