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Does the BSA pre-vet election programmes?

No. We do not have the power to give you specific advice on whether particular content in an election programme might breach broadcasting standards, but we can give general guidance on the relevant broadcasting standards and how they are applied. To ensure you do not breach broadcasting standards we encourage you to review the standards that are contained in the Election Programmes Code, as well as the Radio, Free-to-Air TV and Pay TV Codes. You can also review past BSA decisions about election programmes that have been complained about (see below).

Note: If you intend to broadcast an election programme on television, it will need to be assessed by the Commercial Approvals Bureau (CAB) before it can be broadcast.

Can you give us advice about other requirements for election programmes or election advertisements?

If your election programme might also be an election advertisement under the Electoral Act, you should refer to the guidance provided by the Electoral Commission. Requirements for election advertisements include, for example, the requirement to include a ‘promoter statement’ (who initiated the advertisement), written authorisation to promote a party or candidate, funding allocations for election advertising on TV, radio and the internet, and expense limits for election advertising.

The Commission has specific rules around election advertising which cover these areas. The Commission is also responsible for advising on the timing requirements for the broadcast of election programmes.

I am an on-air employee of a broadcaster and also an electoral candidate - do I need to stop presenting my programme?

There is no legal requirement for the on-air employee of a broadcaster to stop presenting their programme during the election campaign, just because they are an election candidate. However, you will need to take care in how you engage on issues that might be relevant to the election. You, along with your employer, should use your own judgement, taking into account the ethical, legal and employment considerations and broadcasting standards. If you are a candidate and plan to continue in your broadcasting role, broadcasting standards will apply and you can expect to be the subject of careful public scrutiny.

What will happen if the BSA receives an election programme complaint?

The BSA will notify you and the relevant broadcaster that a complaint has been received, and give you both an opportunity to comment. The BSA will endeavour to deal with any election programme complaint as quickly as possible, so you should be prepared to respond with your views on a short timescale. The BSA will issue its decision to the parties, and will advise when the decision will be publicly released on its website.

Should we pull the election programme while the BSA determines the complaint?

The BSA cannot direct you to stop playing a programme that has been complained about so this will need to be your decision. The broadcaster may also choose to take the programme off air, so you should discuss the matter with them. You should assess this on a case by case basis but you may choose to have regard to the nature of the complaint, the effect of continuing to play the programme in terms of free and fair elections and the principles of freedom of expression.

What can the BSA do if it upholds a complaint under the Election Programmes Code?

Complaints about election programmes are made against the broadcaster. If the BSA upholds a complaint about an election programme, the BSA can make any of its usual orders (eg broadcast statement, costs to the Crown), against the broadcaster. In the event a complaint is upheld, the BSA also encourages the broadcaster and political party concerned to consider whether any changes ought to be made to the election programme, to mitigate the breach of broadcasting standards.
See BSA Orders

What election programmes have been complained about in the past?

The BSA’s previous decisions on election programme complaints are listed below. 

Note! 
All the links to BSA decisions below (HTML) open a new tab. 
Decisions prior to 1994 are available as PDFs only.

2014

2011

2008

2005

2002

1999

1996

1993

Disclaimer: Nothing here binds the BSA in determining the outcome of any future complaint. Each complaint is determined on the particular facts surrounding a broadcast.