On 19 November 2012, Ofcom opened a consultation on the review of the Rules on Party Political and Referendum Broadcasts and on the Guidance for broadcast coverage of elections.
The review of the Rules is related to recent amendments of the Communications Act, requiring the new local television licences to contain an obligation to offer political broadcasts. According to Ofcom's proposal, local digital TV service providers will be required to transmit party election broadcasts in a wide range of elections that would be of interest to local communities. Referendum campaign broadcasts and political broadcasts outside election periods will be also included in these services.
To give more fairness and flexibility, Ofcom also proposes that independent candidates should be eligible for election broadcasts under certain conditions. In addition, parties that automatically receive party election broadcasts (the major parties) should be listed in a regularly updated Annex. With regard to the allocation requirements for the party election broadcasts, Ofcom invites stakeholders to share their views on the current “one-sixth” threshold, according to which party election broadcasts are allocated to non-major parties if a party stands candidates in at least one sixth of seats in “first-past-the-post” elections.
To help broadcasters comply with Ofcom's Broadcasting Code when they produce their own coverage of elections and referendums, Ofcom proposes Guidance to Sections Five and Six of the Code. The Guidance gives a detailed explanation of the Broadcasting Code, and provides weblinks to Ofcom decisions on practical cases related to issues of due impartiality, political controversy and elections.
The consultation is open until 21 January 2013.