Ofcom has launched a consultation around this year’s list of “major parties” that will be offered at least two Party Election Broadcasts on non-BBC TV and radio channels (ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Classic FM, Talksport and Absolute Radio) ahead of May’s General Election (and the English local government elections the same day). The current major party list includes:
- In Great Britain, the Conservative Party; the Labour Party; and the Liberal Democrats.
- In Scotland and Wales respectively, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.
- In Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party; the Democratic Unionist Party; Sinn Fein; the Social Democratic and Labour Party; and the Ulster Unionist Party.
In making a decision on who qualifies to be a major party, Ofcom take into account previous electoral performance, analysis of share of vote and seats won, along with current opinion polling data.
Based on available evidence, Ofcom’s initial view is there is no strong argument to remove any of the existing parties from the list of major parties.
Ofcom has also considered whether other parties should be added to the list. Based on available evidence, Ofcom is consulting on whether three parties would qualify for the major parties list for the 2015 General Election. These are:
- the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party);
- the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) in Northern Ireland; and
- the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Ofcom’s initial view is that “UKIP may qualify for major party status in England and Wales for the General Election and English local elections” in May 2015. You can read Ofcom’s rationale and analysis of the evidence for this unsurprising stance on their consultation webpage.
However, Ofcom’s initial view is that “neither the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party) nor the TUV have secured sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls” to merit being added to the major party list for May 2015.
The Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party) … has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in General Elections. The Green Party has performed better in some other forms of election, such as the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, obtaining 8.0% and 8.1% of the vote in England and Scotland. In terms of evidence of current support, the party’s opinion poll rating in Great Britain-wide polls has increased in recent months to 5.9% in December 2014 (4.0% on average during 2014).
The TUV has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in General Elections. The party performed better in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, obtaining 12.1% of the vote in Northern Ireland. However, it has not demonstrated significant support in other forms of election or significant current support in opinion polls.
If you have an opinion, you have until 5 February 2015 to respond to Ofcom’s consultation on its initial assessment. Their revised list of major parties will be published by early March.
A similar consultation by the BBC Trust on the criteria used for PEBs broadcast on BBC channels closes on 12 January, so you’ve just a few days to get your feedback lodged with them. Their criterion for offering election broadcasts is simpler.
Threshold Criterion for PEBs
A registered political party which stands candidates in a minimum of one sixth
of the seats up for election in a nation will qualify for one PEB in that nation …
In Northern Ireland, a political party will qualify for one PEB if it
stands candidates in a minimum of 3 seats.
[Additionally …] A registered political party which meets the threshold criterion may qualify for one or more additional PEBs in a nation if it can demonstrate substantial levels of past and/or current electoral support in that nation [in this case, Northern Ireland].
While there is prestige in being offered a few minutes on television and radio for a Party Election Broadcast, they are expensive to produce, easy to ridicule, and perhaps an increasingly ineffective way of reaching voters. A good ‘viral’ video on Facebook could reach more people and generate more engagement around the policies presented than television. But I don’t foresee any parties denied an official PEB going to the effort to produce one and run it online instead.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.