Thursday, May 06, 2010

Why Can't We Listen to Political Debate on Polling Day?

I've just done a feisty interview with Jon Gaunt on SunTalk. It's the only interview I will do today? Why? Because terrestrial broadcasters operate under OfCom rules, and these rules think you are too susceptible to political influence on polling day. In other words, they think you are stupid. On the one day when politics is at the fore, all political discussion is disallowed on the BBC, Sky and everywhere else on the broadcast media. And yet newspapers can print what they like. If you go to the cinema today you would still be allowed to see political commercials before the movie starts (at least, I think you are). I can write what I like on this blog because it is not regulated by OfCom.

These rules are prehistoric. If you trust the people, you should trust them to be able to listen to informed political debate on polling day.

If the BBC and others are trusted to be impartial at all other times, why do the regulators lose that trust on polling day?

The next government should update these rules and bring them into the 21st century.

40 comments:

Salmondnet said...

Can't agree. Some politicians are not above telling huge and potentially influential lies to further their own electoral interests. If such lies are told on air on polling day there is too short a time to investigate and refute them.

Jamie said...

I couldn't disagree more. can you imagine the desperate political stunts that would be thrown around trying to catch the media's attention?

I find it quite exciting to hear 'Britons are going to the polls...' it really builds the excitement towards the evening.

The Grim Reaper said...

If Ofcom had their way, they probably would be regulating your blog, along with all others.

Send another text to Call Me Dave asking him to update the rules and I'm sure he might do it for you. ;-)

jailhouselawyer said...

Iain Dale and informed political debate, sorry they just don't go together.

Dobson said...

...no sorry on this I disagree and I think newspapers should be included in the restrictions.

gil said...

There is one benefit.
Not one teensy weensy bit of Mandleson leaking, spinning, lying, poisoning, or generally going about his usual day's work.
Things can only get better.......

jhoncooper said...

Iain I would also disagree. We've had weeks of 'intense' political debate and a days silence to listen and discerne is good.

Carl Harris said...

Just been on Suntalk to do the betting.

It is an absolute joke that the rules assume people are fools and thank god for suntalk, free speech.

This country now has it so you can't say what you think in case you get sued for upsetting someone or breaching someone's human rights.

Money now massively on hung parliament and 5/2 that there will be two elections in 2010.

Another friend of Suntalk, Nigel Farage has had a lucky day! Hope he is well after that horrible crash and the pilot recovers too.

Simon Gardner said...

I completely agree with the status quo. Today is for the voters and not for the politicians etc.

(And I say that despite having voted 10 days ago.)

Dr Parsley said...

A last minute lie leaves no time for rebuttal.

Manx_Matt said...

I completely disagree, and would be happy to see newspapers be regulated in the same way as the broadcast media. We've had three long weeks of very intense political debate, some of it very negative and bitter.

Just look at the mirror and the sun today to see what kind of tripe is rolled out by the print media on an election day. Today is the one day we should have an influence free day so we can make our choice in peace and according to what we believe in, not what we're fed or spun to agree with or disagree with.

Can you just imagine the media if we allowed politicians to give interviews and spin doctors to spin every tiny minute word or action of a politician. To be honest, I'm glad of the peace!

Chris said...

Completely disagree.

People are susceptible to all manner of influences, many subconsciously. Like it or not, we all are. This doesn't mean we're all 'stupid' or are being treated as such. That's a ridiculous assertion.

You're thinking too much about your own firm opinions and not those of a swing voter.

akashic said...

I understand your point, but if Ofcom didn't prevent comment today, the parties would still be campaigning, the three leaders visiting factories and schools and shops. At some point the election campaign must stop, and let the voting begin.

Considering the campaign has been running since January, we deserve a break.

Cynic said...

I disagree. It leaves it wide open to " X suspected to be a wife beater / paedophile / Secret drinker / monkey strangler" type stories that can have a real impact at constituency level when there is no time to refute them before the damage is done. And for heaven's sake...let's have one day off!!!

DespairingLiberal said...

I like the lull before the storm. It's pleasant to have a break from the political barking.

I tend to take the view that it's time to regulate the leading blogs - some of them are operating like tabloids but without any checks or balances. Order-Order in particular is frequently carrying hate-messages of various kinds.

Dioclese said...

I don't think you are right on this one, Iain.

I think that we have all had enough over the past few weeks and that today should be a quiet day of contemplation for us to carefully consider our options of we have not done so already.

Actualy, the Indian system would be nice too - they bar all alcohol sales on polling days so that the people make sober decisions. Can't see that one working here, though!

Context said...

Quite agree with commentators - can you imagine the stunts? Gordon Brown rescues a kitten? Nigel Farage - er no.

thespecialone said...

BBC impartial?

Simon Dyda said...

There's been no real political debate on TV thus far, why start now?

Mrs Rigby said...

No Iain, I disagree.

It's designed so that people casting their vote in the morning have had the same amount of 'information' from the various political parties, polling sources etc, as those casting their vote late in the evening.

It's meant to be fair, and people are meant to be left free to vote, without a last minute scare story influencing their decision, and without exit polls and political pundits influencing their vote.

It's why the US has a ban from when the first polling stations (on the Atlantic) open until those in the in/on the Pacific close, and why they don't declare until the last polling stations have closed.

Newspapers tend to print only one edition, which is available throughout the day - usually from before polling starts.

So, really, the OfCom code of practice is fair.

Darell said...

Iain I do understand where you are coming form on ths but I truly believe that allowing for a clear day of reflection on polling day itself is very positive. Like other commenters I beieve it would make sense to extend this to newspapers. I know the blogosphere would not be touched but this has to be sought out by the public ratherthan have it shoved in their ears, face etc.

Voting is one of the most important tasks of any adult in a democracy and it should be carried out in a considered way not in the whirlwind of hype and spin.

Darsalon said...

Like most of the rest I disagree. If only for the fact that it gives us a little bit of peace having been bombarded for what seems like a campaign for months now!

Weygand said...

Sorry but you're wrong.

Imagine some stunt followed by a neck and neck finish with arguments that the will of the people had been subverted and having to wait 5 years to put matters right.

Think of the effect on public confidence in the democratic system - and the blood in the streets.

Anna said...

On my return from the polling station just now, I had a conversation with a neighbour who'd thought about not voting at all but eventually decided to. He said he wouldn't dream of asking me how I voted, to which I replied I didn't have any problem with saying I voted Conservative. At which he went a bit quiet other than saying "we really need a change". I gathered he voted LibDem. The conversation then progressed to events in Greece and mutual agreement on how fortunate we are not to be in the Euro, and further progressed to agreement on how 'something needs to be done' about immigration. Which reinforced my view that a large part of the electorate hasn't a clue what it's voting for. I doubt political debate on election day would make the slightest difference to that!

Meanwhile, having bludgeoned my young adult progeny into registering to vote, I'm happy to say they've performed their civic duty... although since the Guardian is the newspaper of choice, I rather think I might have done the Conservatives a disfavour. Can't always win...

Rebel Saint said...

Sorry, completely wrong Iain. What a nightmare it would be. In fact I think they should extend it to 48 or even 72 hours.

They are BROADcasters - they send their messages out indiscriminately.

Blogs - and to a lesser extent - newspapers are narrowcasters. People choose them because of their political viewpoint.

Matelot said...

Sorry Iain, but I think you're wrong on this one. Give us all a break from politics over the air for one day - there's bound to be an onslaught ahead. At least we haven't got the BBC going overboard on the 'hung parliament' today or even worse, telling the electorate how to vote tactically.

Desperate Dan said...

The BBC are carrying on with political broadcasting on behalf of the Labour Party. They are just pretending they're talking about Greece.
I gather that if we feel like going out onto the streets, setting buildings on fire and killing people we'll be called "protesters" rather than criminals.

Moriarty said...

Despairing Liberal once again shows just how liberal he is by calling for something else to be banned.

Andrew said...

You would trust the BBC to be impartial.

How quaint.

Andrew said...

You would trust the BBC to be impartial.

How quaint.

Blackacre said...

Could be worse - some countries ban polls in the last few days before an election. That is no fun.

Snowdon said...

If memory serves, there was always a (unwritten?) rule about not showing political satire before 10pm on election night. Tonight I see that Have I Got News For You is on at 8.55pm. How does this fit in with the regulations?

John said...

Frankly Iain we hear enough cobblers from Politicians every day between elections.

If it was down to me, I'd declare the last two weeks before polling day as a "period of reflection" for the public and ban all media discussion of the election so we have time to think about it all.

In my opinion anyone who is so apathetic that they need to listen to the endless lies of election campaigns should not even have the freedom to make a vote.

Gallimaufry said...

Could there please be a ban on Mandelson speaking for another five years? I get flashbacks of the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang every time he oozes out of the telly. Mummy, make him go away!!!

Context said...

http://news.uk.msn.com/politics/general-election-2010/news/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=153291238

If stunts like this were to be shown on TV news today it would make it worthwhile for all parties to stage them - imagine what Draper/ McBride/ Whelan et al would come up with. Need I mention the Dark Lord?

Martin said...

God Iain are you not fed up with the BBC's bigging up of the one eyed cretin by now?

pj13 said...

So wrong! And at such a crucial moment...

There are moments like this when I realise how much you have been captured by libertarian rhetoric.

This isn't state intrusion. This is a law designed to protect us from speculators, mountebanks and propagandists.

But of course any restriction on our liberty (to drive the wrong side of the road, cry 'fire' in a full theatre etc.) is de facto wrong.

No wonder you object to Fascists being called 'extreme right wing': you have a binary mindset focused around state/law which you've inherited from republican libertarian thinking.

Craig Ranapia said...

Jamie:

No imagination required -- but I have to agree with Ian. The rules should at least be consistent, unless someone comes with empirical evidence that television viewers are thicker and more gullible than blog readers.

Unsworth said...

@ Despairing Liberal

"I tend to take the view that it's time to regulate the leading blogs"

I'll bet you do. So much for 'Liberal'.

Who would you suggest 'regulates'? How would these 'regulators' be selected - by patronage, perhaps?

And you'd propose 'regulation' of blogs based everywhere in the world?

Much like China, then.

Suzanne Robinson said...

I agree with others that it is good for voters to have an influence free day,

Yes people need to be informed, but they would not be informed if the hours running up to the election were just full of desperate publicity stunts.

If people want to find out more about a particular political party they can turn to newspapers websites and blogs.