Broadcasting allocations

Written By: - Date published: 3:20 pm, June 1st, 2011 - 21 comments
Categories: democratic participation, election 2011, election funding, elections, Politics - Tags: ,

No Right Turn asks an interesting set of questions about the state allocation of  broadcast media time. David Farrar makes a similar point to I/S but restricted to parties outside parliament at the end of his post here.

The Electoral Commission has announced its initial broadcasting funding allocations for this year’s election. Last time round, they adopted a simple four-tier model: big parties (Labour and National), small parties (the Greens, Maori Party and NZ First), single-MP parties (ACT, Progressive, and United Future) and minnows (tiny parties outside Parliament, such as the Alliance and Libertarianz). This time round they’ve had to move to five tiers, splitting the “small parties” group into the Greens (who have 9 MPs) and the rest (who have 4 or 5 each). They’ve also put NZ First, which is outside Parliament, in the same category as United Future – unusually generous, but also nowhere near reflective of its polling. Its about as fair a decision as they could make, given the statutory requirement that allocations reflect the political status quo, but of course its not a level playing field. Which raises the question: if we think TV and radio broadcasting is so influential that it must be restricted to produce a level playing field between parties – which I agree with – why do we allocate it so it produces the opposite?

The idea behind elections is that voters are meant to decide between parties. But the present method of broadcasting allocation straps the chicken by giving some parties more than others. If we took the underlying premise seriously, we’d give every party equal time. Some would no doubt object that this would put the “serious” parties on the same level as the “non-serious” ones. I agree. But that’s because I think the “seriousness” (or electability, or desirability) of a political party should be determined by the voters, not by the Electoral Commission.

21 comments on “Broadcasting allocations”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    I/S brings up the legally mandated non-level playing field that we have in NZ politics:

    Its about as fair a decision as they could make, given the statutory requirement that allocations reflect the political status quo, but of course its not a level playing field. Which raises the question: if we think TV and radio broadcasting is so influential that it must be restricted to produce a level playing field between parties – which I agree with – why do we allocate it so it produces the opposite?

    This question has bugged me for awhile. If we want true competition in political parties then we need to have them being able to reach us no matter their size in parliament or how much of the vote they got at the last election. this would require a level playing field which means that each party must receive the same amount of funds so that they can all equally compete. Our present system actively prevents that and actually enforces the status quo.

    Perhaps we don’t get the changes that we need because the present system is locked in?

    [lprent: moved from OpenMike. ]

    • PeteG 1.1

      It makes it a lot harder but not impossible.

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      The problem with this is that interest-groups could be set up that don’t have any reasonable chance of being elected, simply to promote their cause on TV/radio. Aoteroa Legalise Canabis got 2 minutes of funding, despite never getting any real vote at the last election. What’s to stop RSPCA signing up as a political party simply to get free advertising on TV? Sure, RSPCA might be a cause we agree with, but what about a kooky religious sect, or gangs, or a retailers associated?
       
      A line has to be drawn somewhere, if only to prevent hundreds of ‘parties’ popping up solely to get money for advertising.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1

        I really don’t think that would be too much of a problem to deal with:

        1.) It’s actually bloody hard to set up a party in the first place. You need 500 financial members to start with. Te Mana, with all it’s existing support, still took two weeks to apply.
        2.) Put in limits. Say something like if the party fails to get representation in x# of elections and/or to maintain 500 financial members (set membership to max length of one year) then funding is cut.
        3.) Party must not be a single issue party. Must have a detailed manifesto.
        4.) If any spending is done that is not related to political advertising as specified in the EFA then the full amount must be refunded and the party gets fined $1m.
        5.) Can’t participate in the election immediately following the parties registration. (This may a little harsh)

        And what’s wrong with gangs setting up as a political party? They obviously have some thoughts on social organisation or they wouldn’t exist and we certainly don’t have any right to exclude them from giving that input. Hell, the Black Power and others could probably set themselves up as a political party under present conditions anyway.

        • Lanthanide 1.2.1.1

          “3) Party must not be a single issue party. Must have a detailed manifesto.”

          You’ve just ruled out the Legalise Cannabis Aoterora Party.

          I also don’t know that you’d say the RSPCA is single issue. Similarly, a retailers association wouldn’t need to be single issue either, and could easily have a detailed manifesto.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1.1.1

            You’ve just ruled out the Legalise Cannabis Aoterora Party.

            Only if they don’t draw up a manifesto that includes their ideas about all other aspects of our society. Doing so doesn’t preclude them from still having a main focus but it does give the people some certainty that they have some ideas about the rest as well.

            Think about it – why does the Legalise Cannabis Aoterora Party still exist? The Greens have the same goal anyway and they’re in parliament. So, what other policies do they have that set them apart from the Greens?

            • Lanthanide 1.2.1.1.1.1

              Do the Greens want to legalize it, or just decriminalise it? Also with LCAP you can be sure that if they ever form part of a government, it will if and only if the leading party agrees to legalize cannabis – whereas the Greens are quite likely to make a concession on it, precisely because they have other areas they see as more important and not worth sacrificing.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Well, then, it’s obvious that LCAP won’t be in government in the foreseeable future but that still doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have policies that cover other areas does it?

        • PeteG 1.2.1.2

          Must have a detailed manifesto.

          Why? Small party manifestos can be ok but in practice they are exercises in futility, they will never get to put most if not all their policy into practice.

          Having people who are capable of dealing with people and with issues that are in front of them is far more important than theoretical backroom posturing.

          The large parties do need to have policies, but even then most of them shouldn’t be set in concrete. The age of idealism is long gone, we’re now in the age of pragmatism.

      • McFlock 1.2.2

        I don’t have a problem with hundreds of one-issue parties popping up. It would be interesting to think how to prevent the “Buy a Brand Z” party, though – although would the effort be more trouble than it’s worth, if it’s one or two a year (like the 1 or 2 joke parties every election)?. 

      • The problem with this is that interest-groups could be set up that don’t have any reasonable chance of being elected, simply to promote their cause on TV/radio. Aoteroa Legalise Canabis got 2 minutes of funding, despite never getting any real vote at the last election. What’s to stop RSPCA signing up as a political party simply to get free advertising on TV? Sure, RSPCA might be a cause we agree with, but what about a kooky religious sect, or gangs, or a retailers associated?

        What about them?

        Elections aren’t just about electing a government. They’re also about political debate. Those single issue minnow parties aren’t just a distraction (though the Labour hacks would love you to think that); they’re putting forward a political point of view to be judged by the voters (and by other parties). While those views are generally unsuccessful (though its worth noting that ALCP, the kooky religious Kiwi party, and even Bill & Ben got enough votes last election to be elected under a truly fair voting system), that does not justify shutting them up.

        If you disagree, then think about this for a moment: the Labour Party started as exactly this sort of fringe movement, facing the same sort of smug superiority from the larger parties of their day. And if we’d shut them up because they weren’t popular, we’d still be living under Liberal and Reform.

        The only people qualified to judge the desirability of a political party are voters. And the only mechanism by which they can be judged is elections. Manipulating broadcast funding against small parties is strapping the electoral chicken, and tilting the outcome. That’s not democratic. In fact, its exactly what central asian despotisms do. I’d like to try and be better than that, and let the people choose.

        • wtl 1.2.3.1

          I agree that the allocation system is too strongly in favour of the status quo. But part of the point Lanthanide is getting at is that if it were more of a free-for-all that people will begin using the funding simply to get free advertising rather than genuinely advocating for the party vote.

          Furthermore, I don’t think the broadcasting allocations provide a good means of promoting debate. Instead, they are designed to provide short/simple advertisements that, for lack of the a better word, are aimed at ‘tricking’ voters into believing a certain point of view, rather than promoting genuine debate or providing factual information. For example, I can just imagine ‘anti-climate change’ parties popping up to get funding so that they can put ads on the tv and radio saying ‘climate change is a big hoax/conspiracy’. While it would be nice to think that voters won’t be fooled by it, the is no doubting that such advertising DOES work. Such use of the system won’t help voters become better informed, instead it will to the opposite.

          As such, any allocation system will need some means of restricting access and rules to ensure that it actually helps our democratic system, rather than undermining it. What would you propose to ensure this happens?

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Probably a good idea to move this thread over to the correct post.

      [lprent: good idea. done. ]

  2. fraser 2

    ” straps the chicken” ?

    dont get me wrong – i quite like it, but where did you get it from?

    • lprent 2.1

      I didn’t write it (was a just a bit late in changing the author handle). But I/S will probably be along to glance at the comment.

      On another complete side issue – hopefully it is not like the screwup I accidentally did on facebook this morning talking about another post.

      And for all that Bill and John try to falkland it up, the amount that they think they can save is peanuts.

      Umm the iPad speller strikes again. It was meant to be “… try to talk it up…” but I guess that I hit a ‘f’ instead of a ‘t’ and then the speller took advantage of my distraction of eating breakfast. But it is kind of appropriate in a lot of ways bearing in mind what I was talking about.(

    • ” straps the chicken” ?

      dont get me wrong – i quite like it, but where did you get it from?

      Star Wars – the ridiculously expensive US boondoggle, not the movie.

      Its from their preferred testing method – shooting an interceptor or whatever at a stationary target, or one with a known trajectory and a homing beacon on it. These were called “strapped chicken tests”, akin to strapping a chicken to a plank of wood, shooting it at point-blank range with a shotgun, and using it to prove that shotguns kill chickens. Which is true as far as it goes, but not exactly field conditions.

      Elections aren’t exactly a test (well…), but they’re still tying a metaphorical chicken down, and using it to tilt the outcome.

      • lprent 2.2.1

        Ummmm definitely not the “Chicken Test” then..

        The “chicken ingestion test,” as it’s called, is one of a series of stress tests required by the Federal Aviation Administration before a new engine design can be certified. The tests take place in a concrete building large enough to enclose an entire jet engine. With the engine operating at full speed, the cannon uses compressed air to shoot chicken carcasses (or sometimes duck or turkey carcasses) into the turbine at 180 mph (not 500 mph). This is the approximate speed a plane would be traveling if it encountered a bird during takeoff or landing, when most such incidents occur.

  3. side show bob 3

    Shouldn’t be any taxpayer money spent by any party. Stand by your convictions, as I’ve read heaps of times on this site, money doesn’t buy votes Of course no one with any clues would stand behind a socialist outfit. Look what happen to poor old Owen Glen, shit on from a great height.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      How do people know about other people with the same convictions if they don’t get to hear about them?

      Your model has the rich dominating politics which results in a complete lack of democracy. If we stood by our convictions, every party would be state funded and private donations not allowed so as to prevent even the slightest hint of favouritism.

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