Political and election advertising
Ad Standards sometimes receives complaints about political and election advertising.
The advertising self-regulation system was established as an industry initiative with the objective of regulating commercial marketing and advertising of products and services. The adjudication of complaints about political and election material is outside the charter of the Ad Standards Community Panel.
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What is political advertising?
Political advertising is advertising that attempts to influence or comment upon a matter which is currently the subject of extensive political debate.
Political advertising includes advertising or marketing communications about a political party, representative or candidate, advertising about political issues or issues of public interest, and advertising in relation to government policies (whether published/broadcast by the government or someone else). Advertising by Government, political parties, lobby groups and other interest groups may fall into this category.
It’s not possible for Ad Standards or the Community Panel to make decisions about whether this kind of content breaches the codes without being seen to take a political viewpoint.
Political advertising does not necessarily include all advertising by governments or organisations that are at times involved in the political process, such as lobby groups or interest groups. Such advertising may be regarded as informational or educational rather than political, as determined on a case-by-case basis and complaints about these advertisements which raise issues under Section 2 of the AANA Code of Ethics may be considered by the Ad Standards Community Panel.
What is election advertising?
Advertising or marketing communications are generally regarded as “election advertising” where they contain material intended or likely to affect voting in an upcoming election.
Election advertising is not necessarily limited to advertising by parties or candidates contesting an election and may include advertising outside of an election period where there is a relevant connection to an election. Generally, it will not include government information or education campaigns outside of an election period.
In determining whether an advertising or marketing communication is “election advertising”, regard may be had to the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and State/Territory electoral legislation relating to election matter and electoral advertising. For advertising in the non-broadcast media, the presence of an authorisation required under the Commonwealth Electoral Act (or State/Territory electoral legislation) will be a relevant consideration. For broadcast advertising, the Broadcasting Services Act requires an authorisation for all political matter, not just election advertising, and as a result will not be a determinative factor.
Truth and accuracy in political advertising
Many complaints regarding political advertising raise issues about truth and accuracy, in particular concerns that the advertising is misleading. The Community Panel considers complaints under Section 2 of the Code of Ethics, which does not cover matters of truth and accuracy.
Other organisations that regulate political or election advertising
Other organisations that may be of assistance in regard to political or election advertising include:
- The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – The ACMA regulates political and election matter in the broadcast media under the Broadcasting Services Act, although this does not extend to matters of truth and accuracy or defamatory statements. More information is available on the ACMA website.
- The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) – the AEC has responsibility for the regulation of election advertising under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The AEC’s role includes ensuring that electoral advertisements are properly authorised so that electors can know who is responsible for the statements contained in them. The AEC has no role or responsibility in deciding whether political messages published or broadcast in relation to a federal election are true or untrue. The AEC has published an Electoral Backgrounder on Electoral Advertising, available on its website.
- The relevant State/Territory Electoral Commission – the State/Territory Electoral Commissions are responsible for matters including authorisation of election advertising.