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BSA seeks feedback on changes to Election Programmes Code


Changes are being proposed to the standards and guidelines that apply to Election Programmes which are broadcast by or for political parties and candidates in the run-up to the general election.

In consultation with broadcasters, the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has prepared amendments which aim to make the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice (Election Programmes Code) more user-friendly and clearer for broadcasters and members of the public.

The key change to the Code is the addition of guidelines for each standard which are designed to help broadcasters, political parties and candidates, and the public understand how the standards apply to broadcast Election Programmes.

The BSA is now inviting people to have their say before the changes are introduced.

BSA Chief Executive Belinda Moffat said: “The right to freedom of expression, and particularly political speech, is important in a democratic society. This is particularly so in the lead-up to a general election, when political parties and candidates are seeking to influence voters, and audiences are seeking information to enable them to make informed voting decisions.

“The Election Programmes Code sets standards for broadcasters to ensure that the exercise of political speech in Election Programmes does not cause harm. It is important therefore that the Code is clear about how the standards apply and we hope that the refreshed Code achieves this purpose. During an election period members of the public may complain to the BSA if they are concerned that an election programme does not meet the standards.”

The changes are being proposed ahead of the 2020 General Election. They also reflect changes introduced by the Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Act 2017.
The review leading to the draft refreshed Code has taken into consideration equivalent standards overseen by other standards bodies, such as the Media Council and ASA, with the aim of ensuring some consistency across the platforms on which election advertising may appear.

The draft refreshed Code has been prepared with input from broadcasters and other industry and government stakeholders.

The BSA is keen to hear from the public, academics and those involved in the election process to ensure the code is fit for purpose and reflects the values and expectations of our diverse New Zealand community.

Ms Moffat added: “The purpose of this public consultation is to invite submissions from a range of viewpoints so we can be confident the refreshed Election Programmes Code achieves its purpose and reflects the views of the New Zealand community as well as being user-friendly, clear and informative. The code is an important safeguard against misinformation during the election process.”

The Election Programmes Code only applies to general election advertising that is broadcast. These are usually short promotional clips broadcast on television and radio for political parties or candidates. Other programmes about election matters, such as news, comment, documentaries, or entertainment are not subject to the Election Programmes Code. The Election Programmes Code does not apply to content about local body elections. Those programmes must however comply with the other broadcasting standards that apply to all broadcast content.

A copy of the draft refreshed code, and the consultation papers and details of how to make a submission are available at www.bsa.govt.nz. The deadline for submissions is 5:00pm on Friday 22 November 2019.

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