Change UK and the Brexit Party seem to be getting a lot of airtime considering they won zero seats in 2014 - compared to the Greens' three...
The Green Party’s South West MEP has complained of a media blackout of the party – with broadcasters feting parties with no seats.
Broadcasters have to abide by rules on impartiality and party balance during regulated election periods.
As of this month, the UK is in an official election period, in anticipation of likely European elections on May 23rd.
Ofcom’s guidance to broadcasters is clear that they should ‘put more weight on evidence of past electoral support than evidence of current support (e.g. opinion polls)’.
However, the new parties Change UK and Brexit Party have received extensive coverage on broadcast media, while many Greens are complaining of a ‘blackout’.
The regulator also states that: “Broadcasters should not give undue prominence to the views and opinions of particular persons or bodies on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy.”
That means the wall-to-wall broadcast coverage – from Rachel Johnson (Change UK) to Ann Widdecombe (Brexit Party) could be in breach of the rules.
We are currently officially in a regulated election period. That means broadcasters must follow the Ofcom rules on balance and impartiality pic.twitter.com/W9u523MSsk— Josiah Mortimer (@josiahmortimer) April 26, 2019
Ofcom produce outlines of parties’ electoral support to guide broadcasters’ coverage. A recent ‘digest’ assumes that European elections are not taking place – raising fears that coverage of the current campaign will be a free for all.
Airwaves have been full of Rachel Johnson and Ann Widdecombe, both standing for parties with no MEPs— Molly Scott Cato MEP (@MollyMEP) April 25, 2019
As @TheGreenParty MEP for SW+Gib I haven’t had a look in. Called @Ofcom but asked to send email
What are the broadcasting impartiality guidelines worth if they aren’t enforced?
When challenged, Ofcom referred Scott Cato to their guidance, saying: “The rules broadcasters must adhere to during election periods can be found on this page. If you have a concern and wish to lodge a complaint with us, you can do so on our website.”
The last time the media so blatantly ignored @TheGreenParty we doubled our membership in The Green Surge, and got our best set of votes since 1989. Media – stop ignoring the Greens #GreensChangeEurope— Vix Lowthion (@VixL) April 25, 2019
When the Greens went largely ignored during the 2014 European elections, the backlash triggered a ‘Green surge’ that propelled the party forward. Nearly 90,000 signed a petition to the BBC calling for fairer coverage and the party’s membership went from 15,000 to 45,000 in six months.
However, Caroline Lucas appeared on BBC Question Time on Thursday night, while Molly Scott Cato appeared on Sky News’ All Out Politics.
An Ofcom spokesperson told Left Foot Forward:
“Broadcasters are free to make editorial decisions about their programmes but they must ensure they abide by our broadcasting rules. We assess all complaints and programmes against these rules, expediting complaints relating to election coverage as appropriate.”
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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