The Election Moratorium

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland
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The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland have launched a
consultation on their  Broadcasting Code on Referenda and Election Coverage (PDF). While it contains all the usual stuff on fair and equal access and the ban on political advertisements, it also upholds the Moratorium as applied at the General Election earlier this year.

While reading through the draft code, I came upon an issue, should the same Moratorium be applied to Referenda and Elections?

In the case of elections I can see very little reason for a moratorium. People understand that they are choosing betweens parties and individuals and need as much information as possible and the Broadcast media is instrumental in providing this. We have also seen in other countries who do not have a moratorium, that very little changes on day before.

But should referenda be treated differently? Should we till have a full day moratorium so that people can reflect on all the information and not have to deal with spin (on bother sides). In the last few referenda we have seen misinformation on all sides, by allowing broadcast media to broadcast on the day before a referenda gives either side a chance to get out another miss-truth giving the other side little or no time to respond. By giving the full day before the polls opening, it can give people time to reflect on all the information.

What do you think?

The Election Moratorium

A polling station sign in the Jersey general e...
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There have been a few questions asked about the Election Broadcasting Moratorium which is changing this year in comparison to previous elections. This year, broadcasters will be allowed to cover the election up until 2pm on Thursday.

From the BAI Guidance

Radio and television broadcasters shall observe a moratorium on coverage of an election. The moratorium will operate from 2pm on the day before the poll takes place and throughout the day of the poll itself until polling stations close.

Electioneering and/or references to election issues and/or references by any on-air personnel, (including guests) to the merits or otherwise of the election candidate(s) and their policies shall not be broadcast while the moratorium is in operation.

The Guidance goes on to note

  • The moratorium is not intended to preclude coverage during this period of legitimate news and current affairs stories that are unrelated to an election. However, broadcasters should avoid airing content (including breaking news stories) that the broadcaster believes is intended and/or likely to influence or manipulate voter decisions during the moratorium period.
  • Steps should be taken to ensure that overnight programme repeats scheduled during the moratorium do not contain material that would breach the moratorium. Broadcasters are advised to either edit programmes (if practical) or schedule an alternative programme so as to avoid accidental breaches of the moratorium.
  • Coverage of news items such as the opening hours of polling stations, voter turn-out, factual reports on voting by political party leaders and other representatives of electoral interests etc., is permissible once it complies with the moratorium.
  • Particular care should be taken around the opinions expressed by any programme contributors, during the period covered by the moratorium.The moratorium extends to all areas of programming including newspaper reviews, coverage of opinion polls, information announcements etc. Particular care is necessary when commenting upon or covering newspaper reviews as the print media is not subject to a moratorium.
It is important to also note the moratorium does not apply to websites or to on the ground canvassers. Canvassers are only banned from anywhere within 100m of a polling station on the day of the election so do not be surprised if a canvasser calls to your door on Thursday evening!