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Electoral Com. Broadcasting Allocation Decision

Decision of the
Electoral Commission - Te Kaitiaki Take Kowhiri,
on allocation of time and money to political parties
for broadcasting of election programmes.
2005 General Election


Explanation

In making the allocation the Electoral Commission must have regard to a series of criteria which cover results of the last election as well as consideration of more recent measures of parties' public support. It also requires that eligible parties be provided a fair opportunity to convey their policies to the public (details in appendix, on www.elections.org.nz, Broadcasting Act 75(2)).

This fairness criterion was the basis upon which the Electoral Commission decided to allocate a minimum to all eligible parties and also to cross-subsidise from the allocation to the two largest parties to that to smaller parties. Thus, the allocation is not an exact arithmetic reflection of share of votes, seats, membership or support in opinion polls.

Starting from the basis of a minimum, all parties were entitled to that basic allocation and then the Commission considered which parties should be raised to a grouping which would receive a higher allocation. This process of elevating parties into a higher group produced the divisions shown in the table. The public support criteria were used to distinguish between parties in this process. The table indicates which criteria were of particular significance in separating each category from the one below. For example the four parties in the second to bottom group were distinguished from those in the group below because each had recorded at least 0.5% in at least one opinion poll of the party vote in the last 12 months whereas none of the parties in the bottom group had reached that level in an opinion poll. Likewise, ACT and the other three parties in that group are separated from Maori Party because each has more MPs, and has done better in opinion polls. In general, the Commission thought of parties as being in groups of similar levels of support and in any case placed a party in a group by itself only when there was a clear differentiation from the parties immediately below and above that party.

The Commission welcomed the notification of an increase in available funds from $2,081,000 to $3,212,000 which reflected increases in media costs. Whilst Labour and National between them are preferred by over 80% of respondents in opinion polls, we used the fairness criterion to impose some cross-subsidisation. Consequently these two parties together receive $2 million. The remaining Parliamentary parties were allocated $1 million and the non-parliamentary parties share the final $212 000.

Groups were collapsed into three broad groups for the allocation of time. All eligible parties were allocated some time for opening addresses, reflecting the fairness criteria. However only Parliamentary parties were allocated time for closing addresses as the shorter time made available precluded a wider allocation.

The order of opening addresses is Labour Party, National Party, Green Party, New Zealand First, United Future, ACT, Progressive, Maori Party, Patriot Party, Christian Heritage, Democrats, Destiny NZ, National Front, Libertarianz, Alliance, 99 MP Party, The Republic of New Zealand, Beneficiaries Party, Republic Aotearoa New Zealand Party, New Zealand F.R.P.P. This order was determined by following the groups used for time allocation and using random selection within each group, except that in line with past practice the main government party has the first address and the second largest party has the first closing address.

The order for closing addresses is the reverse within each group: National Party, Labour Party, ACT, United Future, New Zealand First, Green Party, Maori Party, Progressive.

Each of the 12 parties that has been allocated one minute for an opening address also has access to a production package that has been organised with TVNZ. The package will provide production that would otherwise cost over $7 000 for each party. This package has been organised primarily to ensure both the accessibility of TV to these smaller parties, in consideration of the "fairness of access' criteria and a basic standard of professional production. Details of the production package will be sent to the political parties concerned.

Allocation Decision

Minutes

Main (not only) criteria distinguishing this group from the group below

Number of parties

$ (GST inc)

Open

Close

MPs

'02 vote

Polls

Membership

Available for allocation

3,212,000

72

30

Labour Party

1

1,100,000

12

6

yes

yes

yes

yes

National Party

1

900,000

12

6

yes

yes

yes

yes

ACT, Green Party, NZ First, UNITED FUTURE

4

200,000

7

3

yes

yes

yes

M¨¡ori Party

1

125,000

4

3

yes

yes

Progressive

1

75,000

4

3

yes

Alliance, Christian Heritage NZ, Destiny NZ, Libertarianz

4

20,000

1

0

yes

99 MP Party, Beneficiaries Party, Democrats , National Front, New Zealand F.R.P.P., Patriot Party, Republic Aotearoa New Zealand Party, The Republic of New Zealand

(of these only Democrats, New Zealand F.R.P.P and 99 MP Party are currently registered)

8

10,000

1

0

Conditions

Only registered parties may enter into contractual commitments to use money, time and any production package that has been allocated to them in this decision.

For the twelve parties that are being offered the production package, acceptance or otherwise of the production package will not have any impact on the allocation of time and money to that party.

RNZ has also made conditions in relation to opening and closing addresses. Conditions relate to statutory broadcasting requirements and production standards and addresses must start and finish with a statement of the name of the party. Details of the conditions have been supplied to the parties.

Variation to the allocation

In specified circumstances the Electoral Commission can vary the allocations made without further consultation. Such circumstances include a party: not accepting an allocation, having its registration cancelled, making a significant change in its relationships with other parties, or failing to nominate a party list.

Commissioners

The Electoral Commission members for Broadcast Allocation process:

Hon Anthony Ellis, President

Belinda Clark, Secretary for Justice

Joe Williams, Chief Judge of Maori Land Court

Helena Catt, Chief Executive

Hon David Caygill, representative of the Government

John Isles, representative of the Opposition parties

The decision was unanimous.

Details of the allocation process, use of the allocation and process for payment of invoices can be found in the following appendix or on the Elections New Zealand website www.election.org.nz under Registered political parties and logos.

Signed for and on behalf of the Electoral Commission:

Hon Justice Ellis

President of the Electoral Commission

Dated: 15th April 2005

Appendix

The following are extracts from the information on www.elections.org.nz under Registered party guide - Election '05. This site contains more details on election broadcasting and broadcast allocation.

The number at the end of some statements refers to the relevant section in the Broadcasting Act 1989 (last updated by the Broadcasting Amendment Act 2004)

What was the process of allocation in 2005?

1. The Electoral Commission invited political parties that consider themselves eligible for an allocation to give notice of this by 9th February 2005. Eligibility depends on giving this notice and on being registered when Parliament is dissolved or expires ahead of the election. s.75(1).

The invitation was placed in the New Zealand Gazette and in the main daily newspapers. In addition a letter with the invitation details was sent to the secretary of every registered political party and everyone who had made enquiries about registering a party in the preceding six months.

2. 23 parties replied to the notice saying that they considered that they were eligible for allocation.

3. Parties which had given the required notice were invited to make submissions on how the Electoral Commission should decide the allocations within the criteria outlined in the law.

4. Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand were asked by the Electoral Commission to tell it how much free time they will make available for broadcasting parties opening addresses and closing addresses. s.71. s.71A

5. Parliament appointed additional Commissioners to the Electoral Commission for the allocation process, being one person representing the Government and the other for the Opposition. Electoral Act 1993 s.8(4). s.10(1A). s.11(3A). s.11A(1). s.11B.

6. The Minister of Justice advised the Electoral Commission how much money would be available for allocation: $3,212,000.

7. Hearing were held for parties which wished to make oral submissions in support of their written ones. Hearing were on 21st and 22nd of March. At the time of the hearings copies of written submission were made available to the media and public. At this point three parties had indicated that they no longer considered themselves to be eligible and withdrew from the process. s.72. s.75(2). s.76.

8. The Electoral Commission met on 5th April 2005 to consider the criteria and the submissions.

9. Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand had the opportunity to comment on the proposed allocation of free time before this was finalised. s.75A.

10. The Electoral Commission decided its provisional allocation of both time and money on 14 April. A letter was sent on 15 April to each political party that received an allocation and the allocation decision was announced to the media and made public on 18 April. s.73. s.74A.

11. The Commission will meet immediately after nomination day to consider any adjustments necessary and will then notify parties, the media and the public of any changes made.

What factors does the Electoral Commission consider in allocating time and money to eligible parties?

The law requires the Commission to consider the following factors in allocating time and money to an eligible political party at a general election:

- the number of persons who voted at the previous general election for that party and for candidates belonging to that political party; and

- the number of persons who voted for the party's candidate at any by-election held since the previous general election; and

- the number of members of Parliament who were members of that political party immediately before the dissolution or expiration of Parliament; and

- any relationships that exist between that political party and any other political party; and

- any other indications of public support for that political party such as the results of public opinion polls and the number of persons who are members of that political party; and

- the need to provide a fair opportunity for each eligible political party to convey its policies to the public by broadcasting election programmes on television.

The Electoral Commission decides the relative emphasis to be given to each of these factors after considering parties' submissions. 75(2)

Why and how could the Electoral Commission vary its allocation decisions?

In specified circumstances the commission can vary the allocations made without further consultation. These include a party: not accepting an allocation, having its registration cancelled, making a significant change in its relationships with other parties, or failing to nominate a party list. Only a cancellation of party registration or failure to nominate a party list can trigger a reallocation after a party has started to use an allocation. The commission may decide not to make a reallocation if amounts involved are small or time is short. If a party loses allocation it has already spent then the commission may require the party to repay the money spent. 76A.

What can a party's allocation of money be used for?

Funds can be used by political parties for:

- buying advertising time on TV

- buying advertising time on radio

- production costs

Parties cannot use their own money to buy time but can use their own money for production. 70, 73, 74A, 74B

What about electorate candidates and parties that will not receive an allocation?

Electorate candidates (whether for a registered party, unregistered party or independent) may run broadcast advertising in the three months before election day (but not on election day), with the associated costs counting against the candidate's election expense limit of $20,000 (inc GST).

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