How absurd that radio programmers cannot play a song that mocks John Key because it may breach the Electoral Act, and how ironic that the singer has been gagged by an act of the previous Labour Government. Darren “Guitar” Watson’s song contains a lyric that, in the words of the Act, “appears to encourage voters to vote or not to vote for a political party or candidate”.
News bulletins on radio and television are exempt from the restriction on “third party advertising” and no doubt by now most people will have heard Mr Watson’s voice and seen an accompanying video that its creators consider more “subversive” than the song. But it is simply silly that the song and video cannot be given airtime in their own right to enliven the election campaign.
Helen Clark’s overreaction to the Exclusive Brethren seven years ago has created a regulatory minefield for anyone outside a political party who wants to inject some argument or entertainment into a New Zealand election.
National shares the blame. It reviewed the advertising rules when it came to office but made only minor alterations to them.
This restriction can’t be blamed on the Electoral Finance Act, or its successor. The restriction on any political programme being broadcast has been in the Broadcasting Act for decades. The Broadcasting Act gives the state a monopoly on political broadcasting – nothing can be broadcast that isn’t funded by the allocation given out by the Electoral Commission.