The commercial radio industry has called for an urgent review of the media blackout rules before the
next federal election, arguing the current system is problematic and out of date.
Industry body, Commercial Radio Australia, said the laws, which restrict political advertising on radio
and TV three days out from an election, result in millions of dollars of advertising going to social media and tech giants, Facebook, YouTube and Google at the expense of Australian broadcasters.
“The rules were imposed pre-social media and are hopelessly outdated,” CRA chief executive officer
Joan Warner said.
“This is an issue CRA has repeatedly raised with the Government and Opposition
as discriminatory and archaic.
“It’s crazy to place restrictions on local radio stations, but allow a free-for-all for the digital tech giants,
with online, digital, social media, robocalls and spam text messages allowed right up to the close of
polling on election day.
“This inequitable regulation drives advertisers to digital platforms and has a significant financial impact
on local radio stations, hampering their ability to fund newsrooms and journalists at a time when voter
concerns about misinformation on social media is at a high,” she added.
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM), in its December 2020 report on the 2019 federal election conduct, described the media blackout as no longer fit for purpose, and
recommended a review in which “the restrictions on commercial radio and television
broadcasters be removed”.
The committee recommended the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) work with the Australian Electoral Commission
and other key stakeholders to “ensure this important area is addressed as a priority”.
Ms Warner said this action was also recommended in the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Report.
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