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Election 2011

TV3 wants end to broadcast media blackout prior to election

The TV station makes submission to BAI claiming 48-hour moratorium goes against free speech guarantees.


TV3 IS “DEMANDING” an end to the moratorium which forbids broadcast media from reporting most political coverage just prior to a general election.

The commercially-run independent station is even claiming that the broadcast blackout could be against free speech guarantees in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Currently, a 48-hour moratorium is applied to such reporting on the day prior to polling and on the day the country goes to the polls. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland guidelines were drawn up to guarantee “fairness, objectivity and impartiality” as voters make the final decision on who they wish to elect.

In a statement today, TV3 says it has issued a submission to the BAI arguing that the proposed moratorium in not required. They say that the moratorium “does not apply to print media, online media or to foreign media which are available in Ireland”. The commercially-run independent station claims that “there is no legal requirement for the moratorium under Irish law” and that there is no provision in the Broadcast Act of 2009 for such a moratorium.

TV3 also questions the legality of the moratorium in relation to the free speech guarantees set out in the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Andrew Hanlon, TV3′s Director of News, said:

The moratorium underestimates the intelligence of our viewers who are more than capable of deciphering political messages, even on an elections day. It is ineffective and arbitrary since it only applies to broadcast media… This ban only exists as “custom and practice” from RTE, and while it may have appeared appropriate at some time past it has no place today in a modern democracy with a plurality of media.

A partial moratorium exists in the UK and the US on media broadcasts relating to political issues during the hours of polling on an election day.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland confirmed to that they have received the submission for TV3 and are giving it their “full consideration”. A spokesperson for the BAI said that the body is currently working on the final draft code for broadcasting during and in the run-up to the election. (This is the Draft Election Code, which can be viewed in full here) He said:

There could be changes applied at the end of that consultation period, or there may be none. If the Authority decides to keep the current moratorium in place, then it is a statutory code and broadcasters will have to abide by it.

He added that the final draft should emerge at a meeting of the Authority on January 24 – the code would then be issued in early February.

Regarding TV3′s assertion that print media did not have similar guidelines, the spokesperson said it had been found that political content heard on television and radio tended to have the “greatest impact” on an election campaign in its final stages.