Nine Melbourne found guilty of breaching the Victorian state election advertising blackout rules, but whose ad was it? (Update: Labor)
March 9th, 2011 at 10:11pm
This is quite peculiar. Nine Melbourne have been found to have breached the electoral advertising blackout in the leadup to last year’s Victorian state election, however the Australian Communications and Media Authority has not mentioned anywhere in its findings which ad it was or which party or candidate’s ad it was which aired.
The story, according to ACMA’s press release, is that during Getaway on the Thursday before the election, an electoral advertisement aired due to an error in Nine’s traffic scheduling which was in the process of being moved to Sydney at the time. ACMA (as seems to be their usual action) have not done anything about except acknowledge that it happened as, according to them, “there are no previously recorded breaches of this licence condition by a Nine Network licensee” and ACMA will simply just monitor them for future breaches.
The identity of the person or group who made the complain to ACMA is unknown as ACMA have not published this detail, however the complainant does make a good point, which is published in ACMA’s investigation report:
The airing of the advertisement gives […] a clear advantage over all other parties into a prime time viewing audience across the whole of Victoria.
With such a close election result 45 seats to 43 and with many thousands of voters making up their mind during the blackout period, airing such advertisement may have influenced the result in one or more seats and potentially impact on whom was ultimately elected to govern Victoria for the next four year[s].
This is an advantage that cannot be undone or matched.
(edits to this quote were made by ACMA in their published report)
With the exception of the claim that the ad aired all over Victoria (no such claim has been made against Nine’s regional affiliate WIN and it is therefore safe to assume that the ad only aired in Melbourne), the point is correct, the airing of this ad may have influenced votes in key seats. The question is though, for whom was the ad spruiking?
While the advantage gained via the airing of the ad should be irrelevant to the investigation of whether the ad aired, the information about whose ad it was, is information which should be made publicly available so that we, the people, can know what the likelihood is that the result of the election may have been different had the ad not aired, and the information may also be useful if such an infringement of the rules occurs again in the future, especially if the same person, party or group is advantaged in the future.
Personally I don’t care for the advertising blackout period, especially seeing as it only applies to broadcast media and not newspapers or the internet, but as long as the rules stands and it was broken, we should be told who was advantaged by the breaking of this rule. At the moment, it’s like having a person convicted of murdering someone after being hired by someone else to do it, without the name of the hirer being released.
I’ll be contacting ACMA about this matter.
Update 8:11am: ACMA have replied to say that they will have answers to my questions shortly. I’ll keep you posted. End Update
Update 1:30am Saturday: ACMA got back to me yesterday afternoon to confirm that the ad in question was for the Labor party, so on the bright side the ad wouldn’t have caused a different party to be in power, but it may have affected the outcome of a seat or two.
ACMA also confirmed that the complaint was about the ad airing in Melbourne, and not all of Victoria as stated by the unnamed complainant. They have not received any complaints about the ad airing outside of Melbourne, but also can not definitely state that it did not air…this is perfectly normal as ACMA can only act on complaints, however given that there has not been a complaint, it’s probably safe to assume that WIN did not air this ad.
ACMA dodged my question about whether, hypothetically speaking, a future similar breach in favour of the same party (bearing in mind that I did not know which party the ad was for when I asked the question) could provide grounds for investigating a potential intentional bias, but I can’t say that I blame them…a direct answer there could have very easily been taken out of context, and the answer to one of the other questions stated that the airing of this ad was a genuine mistake.
The full text of the questions and answers is below, and I thank ACMA for their prompt responses to my questions:
Q: Firstly, I can not find any reference in the press release or the published report as to whose political ad it was. This information seems to be relevant given the complainant’s statement that “airing such advertisement may have influenced the result in one or more seats and potentially impact on whom was ultimately elected to govern Victoria for the next four year[s]”. Does the ACMA know whose political ad it was which aired and, if so, is the ACMA able to release this information?
A: the relevant election advertisement was an ALP advertisement which was not broadcast through any action or fault of the ALP but through an error in GTV 9’s traffic system as stated on page 4 of Investigation Report Number 2526
Q: If not, why not?
A: (not provided, as irrelevant based on previous answer)
Q: If a complaint is made against GTV9 in the future about electoral advertising airing during a blackout period, and if the ad which airs is for the same party, group or candidate, will the ACMA potentially have grounds to investigate whether the airing of the ads shows an intentional bias?
A: as stated in the Media Release, the ACMA will monitor any future complaints to ensure compliance with the rules
Q: If so, and assuming that the name of the group/party/candidate responsible for the ad has not already been released by the ACMA by this time, will the ACMA then release this information?
A: (again, not provided, as the question is irrelevant after the last answer)
Q: The complainant’s statement in the investigation report mentions that the ad aired across all of Victoria, however only GTV9 is mentioned in the report, not their regional affiliate WIN Television. Is the ACMA in a position to confirm whether or not any complaints of a similar nature have been made against WIN Television and, if not, whether the ACMA can clarify that the offending advertisement only aired within the Melbourne broadcast area?
A: the ACMA did not receive any complaints about the broadcasting of this advertisement on Win Television Vic Pty Ltd (VTV)
the ACMA is not in a position to confirm whether this advertisement only aired within the Melbourne broadcast area – this is a matter you may wish to pursue with the broadcaster