European court declines to interfere in British elections shock

Yesterday the UK won a case at the European Court, which ruled that Brtiain's long-standing ban on paid-for TV election commercials, associated with the provision of a certain number of free party political broadcasts, does not interfere with free speech.

This is an issue where theory and practice pull in different directions for me.

In theory, and particularly in the internet age, it seems at first obvious that political advertising should be allowed. The ban is a survival from an age where there was no internet and almot everyone voted for one of two parties, so fairness could easily be acheived by giving each of those two parties the same number of party political broadcasts.

That situation no longer applies

And yet ...

In the United States political TV advertising is both effective and extremely expensive. That is the main reason why political campaigning costs an impossible amount of money and only those who are extremely rich theselves or can raise vast amounts of money from supporters can aspire to high office.

There is also considerable evidence of a positive correlation between how much politics costs in a country and the extent to which politicians have to spend all their time raising money instead of addressing the issues which the country needs addressed.

And making politics much more expensive would also tend to squeeze out the small parties. In the short term this might be in my political interests as a Conservative, but I don't think it's in the country's interests.

The arguments which Mike Smithson makes today on Political in favour of allowing political adverts on TV seem at first to be very powerful. But I suspect that the practical impact on British politics would have been dire. Thank goodness that by European Court decided - by a narrow margin - to allow us to make up our own minds on the subject.


Jim said…
I don't really like the BBC, I think it should be privatised. It should be forced to compete. I disagree with the whole concept of the telly tax, would not be so bad if they done that which they were supposed to and were unbiased. The only thing the BBC seems to be any good at is saying how good it is.

There could be ways to have political adverts, Just cap the amount any party is allowed to spend on them during an election campaign.
Chris Whiteside said…
Yes, I agree that if you did go down the road of allowing political TV adverts you would need to balance the airtime available to each side of the argument by putting a cap on the amount any party was allowed to spend on them

You wouls also need - and rules to prevent anyone from circumventing the cap by arranging for campaign groups supportive of a party - trade unions for instance, though the tactic could be used on the other side as well - to put out adverts sympathetic to the party they supported or attacking one they didn't, which were effectively a means of getting round the rules designed to secure balance.
Jim said…
Yes, that's true. Though as we can see it really would not take too much to allow balance and remove the rich only problems.

if we look at the system as is we see problems, now I have no sympathy with the BNP, but under the current system they have the right to TV airtime at the expense of every one who owns a TV. (regardless of if they ever tune into BBC or not)

Under the advert system, they still have the right to put out their message, but its their supporters who foot the bill (Up to the pre-determined cap of course)

Its so often a Red Herring used to look at this system or that. Between black and white there are always other options.

For example I think the NHS is very wasteful and expensive. Many people counter this with the American health care system being much worse. Of course that's another red herring, I (or most others who think this way) would not suggest adopting the US health care system. But more likely one that's higher in health ratings like the German or French systems.

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