Guidance for broadcast coverage of the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner Elections
1.1 On 15 November 2012, elections will be held for the first time for Police and Crime Commissioners ("PCCs") in England (outside London) and Wales (-1-). Each PCC will be accountable for how crime is tackled in their police force area.
1.2 The Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order which makes provision for these elections has been made and was passed by Parliament on 12 July 2012. Under this Order (-2-), Ofcom is required to:
- adopt a code of practice with respect to the participation of candidates at a PCC Election in broadcast items transmitted in relation to individual police areas during the election period (-3-) for that election; and
- before drawing up such a code of practice, have regard to any views expressed by the Electoral Commission.
1.3 This consultation sets out Ofcoms intention to comply with the above requirement to have a code of practice, by making it clear that broadcasters licensed by Ofcom are required to comply with the Rules laid out in Section Six of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (the Code) in respect of coverage of the PCC Elections. Section Six of the Code deals with Elections and Referendums (-4-). Broadcasters are of course also required to comply (as usual) with Section Five of the Code (Due impartiality) in respect of these elections. We also intend to issue Guidance on the way in which the Code applies with respect to these elections, to assist broadcasters in complying their coverage of the PCC Elections with the provisions of the Code.
1.4 We are therefore seeking stakeholders view on our approach and the proposed guidance (the Proposed PCC Guidance) to Section Six of the Code (and the due impartiality requirements in Section Five of the Code). The Proposed PCC Guidance is set out in Section 2 of this consultation.
1.5 The Ofcom rules on Party Political and referendum Broadcasts (the PPRB Rules) (-5-) do not require licensees to offer Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs) to the relevant political parties during the PCC Elections for the purposes of these elections.
1.6 To help broadcasters comply with the Code, Ofcom publishes guidance in relation to each of its 10 sections, including those rules relating to due impartiality (Section Five) (-6-) and elections (Section Six) (-7-).
1.7 Separately to this consultation, Ofcom is reviewing its published guidance to Sections Five and Six of the Code, and we aim to publish a consultation on any proposed changes to the guidance in early Autumn 2012. The intention is that following this consultation, we will publish any revised guidance (Proposed Code Guidance) ahead of any English local elections in May 2013. We envisage that this will also incorporate Guidance in relation to PCC Elections.
1.8 In the meantime, in order to meet our obligations under the PCC Election Order, we consider it appropriate to produce PCC Guidance, to be published ahead of the PCC Elections in November 2012.
1.9 Although 2012 will see the first ever PCC Elections, Ofcom considers that the rules laid out in Section Six of the Code (and in particular Rules 6.8 to 6.13 on constituency coverage and electoral area coverage in elections) are fit for purpose in ensuring that broadcasters comply with the relevant standards requirements as regards the PCC Elections and as required by statute. We have reached this view, on the basis of our experience over a number of years of ensuring that broadcasters comply with Section Six in the various and different types of election in the UK not only the well established elections such as General, European and local elections, but also elections introduced into the UK in recent years including elections to: the Scottish Parliament; the National Assembly for Wales; the Northern Ireland Assembly; the London Assembly, and the post of directly-elected mayor in places suchas London, Hartlepool and Torbay.
1.10 However, given the above requirement in the PCC Election Order for Ofcom to produce a code of practice, and the potentially novel nature of PCC elections, we consider it appropriate to produce specific Guidance for broadcasters in relation to the PCC elections. PCC elections will take place in 41 police force areas in England and Wales. These areas are not coterminous with parliamentary or Assembly constituencies or local election wards and are for a new type of public official, a Police and Crime Commissioner. PCC Elections may attract a relatively higher number of independent candidates than normally stand in other elections. In addition, some major political parties (as defined in the Code) have indicated that they may not formally support or endorse candidates standing in these elections.
1.11 We consider that it is appropriate that we should ascertain stakeholders views more widely on the Proposed PCC Guidance before it is finalised given: the fact that Ofcom must also consult the Electoral Commission on the draft code of practice and the importance of the issues raised.
1.12 Therefore, in Section 2 of this consultation document we lay out, and ask for stakeholder views on, the Proposed PCC Guidance.
The Ofcom rules on Party Political and Referendum Broadcasts
1.13 Under section 333(1) of the Communications Act 2003 (the Act), every licensed public service television channel and every national commercial radio service must include party political broadcasts (PPBs), including PEBs, and referendum campaign broadcasts, and must observe rules made by Ofcom (the PPRB Rules) for such broadcasts. Section 333(2) empowers Ofcom to make rules which may include provision for determining the political parties on whose behalf PPBs, including PEBs may be made. The PPRB Rules are minimum requirements set by Ofcom which Licensees must abide by in deciding the allocation, length, frequency and scheduling of PPBs, including PEBs. Ofcom applies the PPRB Rules in determining any disputes referred to it by a political party or Licensee.
1.14 Ofcom is currently reviewing its the PPRB Rules. We aim to publish a consultation on any proposed changes to these rules in Autumn 2012, alongside any proposed changes to the Guidance to Sections Five and Six of the Code, as mentioned in paragraph 1.[xx] above . The intention is that following this consultation we will publish any revisions to the PPRB Rules ahead of any English local elections in May 2013, and at the same time published any revised Code Guidance.
1.15 We note that paragraph 9 of the PPRB Rules state that: The regional Channel 3 licensee will additionally carry: local election broadcasts in those UK nations/regions where such elections are taking place.... As the PCC Elections are taking place only in most of England and Wales, the applicable regional Channel 3 Licensee that holds the relevant Channel 3 licences covering those nations is ITV Broadcasting Limited (ITV).
1.16 PCC Elections do not fall into the definition of local elections as contemplated by the current PPRB Rules. Nor are they linked to any national or UK parliament elections. Also the 41 PCC electoral areas in England and Wales are not coterminous with the broadcast areas of nine (-8-) regional Channel 3 licences held by ITV, with some PCC electoral areas being covered by two or more Channel 3 licence regions. Consequently, the PPRB Rules do not require relevant regional Channel 3 licensees to offer Party Election Broadcast s (PEBs) to the political parties during the PCC Elections.
Impact Assessment and Equality Impact Assessment
1.17 This document does not contain a separate impact assessment. Instead the document as a whole assesses the impact of the Proposed PCC Guidance.
1.18 Ofcom is required by statute to have due regard to any potential impacts our proposals may have as a result of any inequality in relation to particular equality groups including gender, disability or ethnicity an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is our way of fulfilling this obligation (-9-). An EIA is Ofcoms tool for analysing the potential impacts a proposed policy or project is likely to have on people, depending on their background or identity. In relation to equality (whether in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK) and including considerations of gender, disability or ethnicity, we consider that the proposals in this document are likely to affect all consumers in the same way, and would not have any particular implications for people to whom these considerations apply.
1.19 Interested parties should let us have their comments by 5pm on Tuesday, 4 September 2012. Ofcom will consider carefully any comments received, before publishing a short Statement including the final PCC Guidance in the second half of September.
1.20 As mentioned above, Ofcom will also be publishing a further consultation document in Autumn 2012 which will set out:
- our proposals for amending the PPRB Rules; and
- further amendments to the Guidance to Sections Five and Six of the Code relating to election, and constituency and electoral area, coverage.
1.21 Our intention is to publish a Statement following this second consultation in Spring 2013.
1.- Outside of London, elections will take place for PCC in 37 police force areas in England, whilst there will be elections for 4 PCCs covering Wales. For more background information about PCCs, see http://www.homeoffice.go.uk/police/police-crime-commissioners/
2.- See: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2012/9780111525302/pdfs/ukdsi_9780111525302_en.pdf (see section 54)
3.- The Code defines the election period for local government elections as commencing from the last date for publication of notices of the election. The last date for publication of notices of the election in the case of the PCC Elections is 8 October 2012. Therefore, the election period for the PCC Elections will run from that date until 15 November 2012.
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