So, if you’ve been living under a rock, we’re having an election. I know that it’s tiring, and I for one am completely over the nonsense. This is the first election where I have taken part, having been a conscientious objector to compulsory voting up until now. My decision to enrol to vote is, however, a topic for another day’s post.
What I do want to discuss today is the “media blackout period” we are supposed to experience in the last few days before the actual voting day.
What is a “Media blackout period”?
Under Schedule 2 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), election advertising in the electronic media is subject to a ‘blackout’ from midnight on the Wednesday before polling day to the end of polling on the Saturday. This three-day blackout effectively provides a “cooling off” period in the lead up to polling day, during which political parties, candidates and others are no longer able to purchase time on television and radio to broadcast political advertising. (AEC, 2013)
Apparently, this doesn’t cover the Web, where election hype and discussion is still going crazy. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the Liberals had an “interesting” time of releasing an Internet policy that apparently wasn’t quite right first time
It’s a pretty special set of circumstances that would lead to a completely incorrect policy being released online, unbeknownst to the main politician supposedly responsible for the area the policy covers. But I digress.
The time has come for those who conduct political discussion online to understand one very simple premise:
We Are The Media.
It’s really that simple.
The media blackout is there to give voters a “cooling down period” from the financially-supported party campaigns. Political parties are not being held accountable for their actions online, and this is a worry. Political discussion between voters is not covered by this blackout, and nor should it be.
It seems to me that this is just another instance of governmental guidelines not being kept in synch with what is happening in the real world, away from the hallowed halls of parliament.