The 12am Thursday morning electoral advertising blackout has been a part of Australia’s electoral process at least ever since I was a voter. Indeed the Australian Electoral Commission website states:
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.
This blackout is now challenged, however, due to the rise of Social Media. Services like Twitter and YouTube are allowing the political parties to continue campaigning right up until election day.
Just two hours ago, the Liberal Party’s official Twitter feed tweeted “Watch our new online video “Do you really know Julia Gillard?”.” The link goes to the following YouTube clip below. It’s not on TV, so it doesn’t break the blackout, but it may as well be – it’s a television advertisement in every sense.
Labor’s Twitter feed, meanwhile spruiks blog posts by the hour.
What are the repercussions? Clearly the media blackout laws were conceived in a time when Television, Radio and Print were the only media people had access to. With the development of the internet and more recently, Web 2.0, this has all changed. The uptake of Twitter and its embracing by politicians, and the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube have rendered the laws obsolete.
With Australia going to the polls tomorrow, it is obviously too late to change the laws for this election, but “Moving forward”, if the media blackout is to continue achieving the same goals it set out to do back in 1992 it will need to be revised with a view to including social media under what it terms “electronic media”.