Registered Party Handbook
Appendix A: Broadcasting
This appendix provides information about the broadcasting rights and restrictions that registered parties need to be aware of going into an election. For detailed information, please refer to the Canada Elections Act and the Broadcasting Act. You may also wish to refer to the Elections Canada Web site at www.elections.ca, where you will find information about the most recent decision of the Broadcasting Arbitrator as well as past decisions.
The Canada Elections Act provides for the appointment of a Broadcasting Arbitrator, who is the public official responsible for the administration of those sections of the Act that deal with political broadcasts. The Broadcasting Arbitrator manages the allocation of political broadcasting time under the Act and resolves disputes among broadcasters, political parties and candidates.
Allocation to registered political parties of broadcasting time for purchase
Paid broadcasting time is allocated as a result of a decision by the Broadcasting Arbitrator based on consultations among the registered parties. In making the allocation, the Canada Elections Act requires the Broadcasting Arbitrator to give equal weight to two considerations:
- the percentage of seats in the House of Commons held by each registered party at the previous general election
- the percentage of the popular vote of each registered party at the previous general election
The Broadcasting Arbitrator also gives half weight to the number of candidates endorsed by each of the registered parties as a percentage of all candidates endorsed by all registered parties at the previous general election. However, under no circumstances can a registered party be allocated more than 50% of total broadcasting time.
The Act provides that if the allocation arrived at by the above factors is, in the opinion of the Broadcasting Arbitrator, unfair to a registered party or contrary to the public interest, he or she may modify the allocation in any manner he or she considers appropriate, subject to the restriction that no party be given an allocation of more than 50 percent of the time.
During a general election, every broadcaster has to make available for purchase by the participating registered political parties a total of 6.5 hours, or 390 minutes, to transmit political announcements or other similar programs.
It is the responsibility of each party to produce its own political announcements and other programs. If a station is part of a network, any time sold on the network counts toward the station's obligation. The commercial value of broadcasting time must be reported as an election expense. There is an annual review of allocations of, and entitlements to, broadcasting time for purchase.
Information concerning the broadcasting regime is available in the Canada Elections Act. It is also contained in guidelines published by the Broadcasting Arbitrator and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) within a few days of the issue of the writs. Past guidelines produced by the Broadcasting Arbitrator are available on the Elections Canada Web site.
Availability to eligible and registered political parties of free broadcasting time
In addition to dealing with allocations of broadcasting time for purchase, the Canada Elections Act provides for another category of broadcasting time to be made available to eligible and registered political parties – free broadcasting time.
For a general election, every network operator has to make broadcasting time available for the transmission of political announcements and similar programs at no cost to those eligible and registered political parties that requested an allocation of paid broadcasting time or indicated that they did not want an allocation of paid time. The minimum amount of broadcasting time that networks must make available to the parties must be no less than the free broadcasting time it made available for the same purpose during the previous general election. This time must be divided among eligible and registered political parties in the following manner:
- Two minutes should be given to every registered or eligible party that indicated to the Broadcasting Arbitrator that it did not want an allocation of paid broadcasting time.
- The remainder should be divided among the registered parties that were allocated paid broadcasting time and among eligible parties that requested an allocation of paid broadcasting time. The division of this remaining time is to be made in the same proportions as the paid broadcasting time allocated to each party.
For the purpose of allocating free broadcasting time, a network operator is an authorized operator of a network as defined in the Broadcasting Act. It does not include independent radio and television stations not part of such a network. Parties must refer to the provisions of the Canada Elections Act
and the Broadcasting Act to identify which type of network operators
are required to provide free broadcasting time to political parties. The value
of free broadcasting time is not an election expense.
Further information about the free broadcasting regime is available in the guidelines published by the Broadcasting Arbitrator within two days of the issue of the writs. The Broadcasting Arbitrator's guidelines for past elections are available on the Elections Canada Web site.
Broadcasting Arbitrator's guidelines
Before the end of the second day after the writs for the general election are issued, the Broadcasting Arbitrator must issue a set of guidelines further to those of the CRTC. These guidelines contain:
- the allocations of broadcasting time to be provided to registered political parties and the allocations of broadcasting time to be provided to eligible political parties
- the procedures that both registered political parties and eligible political parties can use to book broadcasting time with broadcasters
- other matters relating to the conduct of broadcasters and network operators under the Canada Elections Act
These guidelines are made available on the Elections Canada Web site, as are guidelines from past elections.
To complement the rules of the Broadcasting Arbitrator, the CRTC issues additional rules to set out the way broadcasters and network operators must act in relation to the general election in question. The CRTC prepares its guidelines before the end of the fourth day after the writs for the general election are issued and sends both its guidelines and the guidelines prepared by the Broadcasting Arbitrator to all broadcasters and network operators.
Election advertising is defined in the Act as the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered political party or the election of a candidate, including one that takes a position on an issue with which a party or candidate is associated. The Act also provides some exclusions, such as the transmission to the public of a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a commentary or news. In the context of broadcasting, this means that political broadcasts or similar programs of political parties that constitute election advertising are prohibited on election day before the close of all of the polling stations in the electoral district.
There are four broadcasting restrictions that parties should be aware of to comply with the Act.
No person must knowingly transmit election advertising to the public in an electoral district on election day before the close of all of the polling stations in that district.
Premature transmission of election results
On election day, it is an offence for anyone to transmit to the public in one electoral district the results of the vote in a different electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district. For example, election results in Newfoundland and Labrador must not be posted on the Internet until the polls in British Columbia are closed.
Broadcasting public opinion survey results
There must be no public transmission in an electoral district on election day of the results of an election public opinion survey that were not previously made public.
In addition, the first person who transmits the results of an election survey to the public, as well as any other person who transmits the results to the public within 24 hours of their being first transmitted, must provide the following:
- the name of the sponsor of the survey
- the name of the person or organization that conducted the survey
- the date on which or the period during which the survey was conducted
- the population from which the sample of respondents was drawn
- the number of people who were contacted to participate in the survey
- the margin of error for the data obtained, if applicable
Additional requirements regarding the transmission of election surveys can be found in the Canada Elections Act, especially in section 326.
Broadcasting from outside Canada
It is prohibited to broadcast from outside Canada election advertising with the intent to influence persons to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.
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