Australia

Election ad blackout could be scrapped

A blackout on television and radio electoral advertising in the three days before an election could soon be scrapped.

A blanket ban on political ads being aired on television and radio in the three days before a federal election could soon be scrapped.

A committee of Liberal, Labor and Greens senators has unanimously called on the Morrison government to reconsider the advertising "blackout" rule, which does not apply to print or online media.

The committee has questioned whether the ban, which was introduced in 1992, remained relevant or appropriate given changes in the media and technology industries over the past 27 years.

Its recommendation was contained in a report into various "freedom of speech" draft laws tabled late last week.

Free TV Australia argued in favour of removing the electoral advertising ban.

The industry body pointed out political parties simply shifted their advertising from television to other, unregulated digital platforms once the three-day ban kicked in.

The Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank, said the proliferation of social media and increased uptake in early voting had rendered the restriction on radio and television obsolete.

Committee chairman Ian Macdonald agreed.

"The committee also notes the growing uptake in pre-poll voting in recent years, and considers this trend underlines the need for a review of the ongoing relevance and efficacy of the blackout rule," he said in the report.

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