We are currently in the middle of a 72 hour election ‘blackout’ – a ban on all radio and television ads in the lead up to the election. The blackout limits our ability to hear from those who are trying to win our votes in the current democratic contest that is the 2013 federal election. It is an obstruction to freedom of speech and it undermines Australia’s democratic system.
The restriction is contained within the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which bans advertising from midnight of the Wednesday before every polling day. The act uses the mechanism of radio and television licenses to enforce the ban so print and social media isn’t affected.
The election blackout sees a proliferation of political messages appearing in newspapers, Facebook and Twitter because these are the only areas that political parties can empty their coffers in the most crucial part of the election campaign. Just have a look at the screenshot I’ve featured of the Sydney Morning Herald taken this morning: the entire screen is covered with political advertising!
Political advertising is merely the communication of ideas about the future of our country. It’s vital that this conversation be allowed to occur. Instead of shutting down the debate, the government should encourage it. It’s time we scrapped this outdated legislation – social media has proved that we are grownup enough to make up our own minds.