March 26th, 2010
The parts of the Broadcasting code with relevance to the political process are brought together here so you can read, feel informed and invite the politicians in with confidence. Principally, you are concerned with parts five and six of the code when looking at covering the election period.
Which Acts should you know?
Unlike the press, radio broadcasters have some statutory duties so you should reference the Communications Act 2003, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the Representation of People Act 2000 which details conduct during elections. In the Communications Act PDF you will be interested in section 319 on Ofcom’s standards code and 320 on special impartiality requirements. The linked Elections and Representations Acts go to the relevant sections.
You need to be aware of the following in particular when the general election starts with announcement of the dissolution of Parliament; this is usually six weeks prior to election day.
The Broadcasting Code
This was amended recently and Ofcom held a broadcasting code workshop where the election period was addressed. They have made these very helpful slides available which give you a quick lesson on what you need to be aware of and how this applies practically to your station.
Broadcasting Code – section five – Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions
Broadcasting Code – section six – Elections and Referendums.
Generally, when putting together a programme where politicians are likely to participate, you should offer all major parties a chance to participate, and invite other candidates with significant electoral support but you need list all names only once.
Most importantly, coverage must be impartial between all parties over the campaign and you should give due weight to all major parties.