There was a reassuring sense of common purpose in a joint media release this week by the four bodies charged with keeping the next election’s media campaigns honest. So why did I get a feeling it was like a rerun of the League of Nations in the 1930s?
The media release announced a short video described as a consumer guide to complaints processes during the election. The video explained the roles of the Electoral Commission (NZEC), Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and New Zealand Media Council (NZMC) in the complaints process. The four bodies also helpfully provided an infographic on who does what.
Each organisation has specific jurisdiction during elections and rules that must be followed. The Electoral Commission has comprehensive rules for political parties, candidates, and third party promoters on everything from hoardings and flyers to how much can be spent on advertising. Both the Advertising Standards Authority and Broadcasting Standards Authority have comprehensive rules, guides, and a stack of past rulings that light their path. The Media Council simply requires election editorial coverage to comply with its 12 principles of good journalism.
The release carried a solemn statement from the four bodies:
“Political speech and election related content, which includes campaign material and commentary on advocacy groups, politicians, political parties and their policies, are vital components of the right to freedom of expression and a democratic election process. We are committed to supporting all those who publish or promote election related content to comply with the standards expected within New Zealand, and encourage members of the public who view, read or hear content that concerns them to raise this with us.”
Now, all this is very reassuring and New Zealand does have a good working model for ensuring election advertising and media coverage is above board. Electors have been reasonably well served in past elections and over time a system has developed that allows for fast redress on matters requiring urgent attention.
The League of Nations also had its successes – it managed to ban the use of gas in war – but it was spectacularly ineffective in preventing the Second World War. Continue reading “Election dangers at unregulated end of information spectrum”