Broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has gazetted new regulations related to how political parties’ elections campaign adverts will be handled. Broadcasters must avail ten slots for 50 seconds every day for political party election broadcasts. Previously these slots were 1minute in duration. Political adverts however are dealt with on commercial terms on a fair basis.
The National and Provincial Party Elections Political Broadcasts and Advertisements Amended Regulations 2019 Regulations, was published on 26 February in time for the May elections. According to ICASA the objective of the regulations is to ensure fair and equitable treatment by broadcasters of all the contesting political parties. According to the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) a PEB is a direct address or message broadcast free of charge on a broadcasting service and which is intended or calculated to advance the interests of any political party.
Political adverts on the other hand is defined as “an advertisement broadcast on a broadcasting service which is intended or calculated to advance the interests of any political party, for which advertisement the relevant broadcasting service licensee has received or is to receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other consideration.”
The regulations prescribe a framework and guidelines under which Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs) and Political Adverts (PAs) must be conducted and carried by broadcasting service licensees.
“The most important aspect for the regulations during the election period is finding the right balance between the respect for editorial independence and the need for rules to guarantee that media coverage does not disadvantage other participants,” ICASA councillor Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa indicated.
The broadcasting of PEBs and PAs should commence on the 26 February (the date when President Ramaphosa has proclaimed the election date) and will end on 6 May 2019. All political parties will be able to produce adverts as long as it complies with the regulations. Despite their representation in parliament or size, all political parties will be able to produce an advert to be broadcasted on a national or provincial platform in the interest of the general public.
The SABC argued during the public hearings process that during the 2016 local government elections they incurred a financial loss by unused slots allocated to political parties. The public broadcaster stated that unused television slots were worth R 5 741 500.00 while on radio it was worth well over R7m.