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countdown to zero

Just one more hour of mud-slinging, folks... The broadcast ban kicks in at 2pm

As far as TV and radio stations are concerned, it’s all over bar the counting…

POLITICIANS RUNNING IN the European and local elections tomorrow have only one hour of airtime left to convince us to vote their way.

The broadcasting moratorium, which affects all radio and TV stations, kicks in a 2pm — giving us all a much needed break from electioneering, before the polls open tomorrow at 7am.

So what does that mean in practice?

Well, if you happened to be responsible for a local radio station’s output, for instance, it would mean you’d have to make sure there’s no references to the particular merits (or otherwise) of any election candidate. By anyone — including guests on programmes.

That doesn’t mean coverage of politics will stop completely, however…

For instance, the big story of the afternoon is likely to be Alan Shatter’s much-anticipated announcement on whether he’ll take his severance package.

The former Justice Minister’s speaking outside Leinster House at 2.30pm. He’s expected to to “do the right thing” according to the Taoiseach.

Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

There’s been much speculation about the issue in recent days, of course. But reporters covering the event for the likes of RTÉ, TV3, Newstalk and others will have to be careful they do so within the terms of the moratorium.

Here’s three of the main points of the guidelines, to give you an idea:

  • The moratorium is not intended to preclude coverage during this period of legitimate news and current affairs stories that are unrelated to an election. However, broadcasters should avoid airing content (including breaking news stories) that can be reasonably perceived to be intended to and/or likely to influence or manipulate voter’s decisions during the moratorium period.
  • Particular care should be taken around the opinions expressed by any programme contributors during the period covered by the moratorium.
  • The moratorium extends to all areas of programming, including newspaper reviews, coverage of opinion polls, information announcements etc. Particular care is necessary when commenting upon or covering newspaper reviews as the print media are not subject to a moratorium.

Stations that run repeats of current affairs programming overnight also have to make sure that the repeated content stays within the terms of the ban.

Fine Gael’s Eamonn Coghlan and independent David Hall meet on the campaign trail in Dublin West [Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland]

Of course, broadcasters aren’t expected to entirely entirely ignore the fact that there’s an election on either. Reports about polling station opening times and other practical details are allowed.

Most of the parties held the last big events of their campaigns yesterday in order to generate as much publicity as possible before the ban kicks in. From now on, they’ll be heading door-to-door and shopping centre to shopping centre asking for your vote.

In all likelihood, they’ll also continue slinging mud on Twitter too.

Related: RTÉ reiterates apology to Seán Gallagher, will publish report document

Read: Selfies in the polling booth are a bad idea, says Department

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