Meaning of 'Election Programme' in Broadcasting Act 2014

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Russell McVeagh opinion dated 16 April 2014 PDF183.21 KB

John Burrows opinion dated 12 May 2014 PDF125.69 KB

Date published: December 2014

In the 2011 General Election it became clear that the term election programme, as used in the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1989, was problematic. A curious situation arose where the Electoral Commission, which has responsibilities under the Act, and this Authority, which has concurrent responsibilities under the Act, reached clearly different - albeit principled - conclusions as to the acceptability of a broadcast. In some situations the Electoral Commission is holding political satire to be an 'election programme', and therefore prohibited at all times. This raises questions about the application of freedom of expression, artistic 'political' expression, and the dissemination/broadcast of such expression.

We were not able to resolve our differences of opinion but we were able to agree that the legislation is not satisfactory and needs to be addressed. To inform the debate and to better understand the issue we obtained two legal opinions. The Electoral Commission did not have input into these opinions and does not agree with the conclusions reached.