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BSA election ad complaint system

By Steven | September 25, 2008

I wonder whether the BSA’s fast-track election-ad complaint system will get a decent work-out this year.

The system allows you to complain straight to the BSA about “election programmes”. This really means broadcast election advertisements, including opening and closing addresses, rather than, for example, election debates.

(Bonus question: was the televised press conference at which the PM announced the election date – with a 10 minute preamble about how tremendous Labour is and how the main election issue will be trust – an election programme or a news programme?)

For some bizarre reason, you have 60 working days to complain about election ads. The BSA recommends that you get in your complaint faster than that. Sound advice. They say they’ll try and crank out a decision in three days if the complaint is urgent. And good on them for that. What is “urgent” though? Presumably if you wait 60 days to complain, it won’t be treated as urgent. On the other hand, if it’s an ad that’s running repeatedly or the election day is imminent, it probably will be. It’s probably worth setting out your reasons why you think the complaint should be determined urgently when submitting your complaint.

What can you complain about? The usual standards, but not balance. I’m guessing the main grounds will be accuracy (here’s an example) and fairness. Denigration might get a look in, though the BSA has set the threshold pretty high. Don’t forget that the law and order standard isn’t generally about whether the ad itself breaks the law but whether it encourages lawlessness.

You can also complain in the usual way (ie first to the broadcasters) about other election programming, eg news programmes. And there, you can complain about lack of balance. Which is probably why Radio NZ’s morning report show announced that they are suspending their daily “listeners’ emails” slot for the election season, though I wonder if that was a bit of an overreaction.

Topics: Broadcasting Standards Authority, Electoral speech | 38 Comments »

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