In advance of the next Local Government Elections which will be held on Thursday 2nd May 2019, all broadcasters should refresh themselves with the rules for election-related programming.
Ofcom says that all broadcasters should ensure that they comply with Sections Five (Due Impartiality) and Six (Elections and Referendums) of the Broadcast Code, as well as the prohibition on political advertising contained in section 321 of the Communications Act 2003 and reflected in Section 7 of the BCAP Code.
“As in previous years, following the removal of the concept of larger parties from our rules and to help broadcasters to take editorial decisions during election campaigns, we have published an annual digest of past electoral and current support ahead of the elections taking place on 2 May 2019.
“This also sets out the factors we consider when making decisions on election-related programming, including putting more weight on evidence of past electoral support than evidence of current support (e.g. opinion polls).”
The rules in Section Six of the Code will apply when the “election period” commences. In the case of the English local (and mayoral) elections being contested on 2 May 2019, this period began on 26 March 2019.
Ofcom will consider any breach arising from election-related programming to be potentially serious and will consider taking appropriate regulatory action, which could include the imposition of a statutory sanction.
If a complaint is made which raises a substantive due impartiality issue during the election period and in Ofcom’s opinion the complaint, if upheld, might require redress before the election, it will be considered by Ofcom’s Election Committee.
In these cases, it will be necessary for Ofcom to act quickly to determine the outcome in a proportionate and transparent manner before the election, and broadcasters should be prepared to engage with Ofcom on short timescales.
For further information about the elections being contested on 2 May 2019, broadcasters should visit the Electoral Commission website.
If broadcasters would find it helpful to discuss the rules in Sections Five and Six of the Code, they may contact Ofcom (OfcomStandardsTeam@ofcom.org.uk).