US-style negative election ads coming to NZ?

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US-style negative election-style advertising campaigns are likely to feature in this year’s general election even though Kiwis are likely to be uncomfortable with them, according to Otago University professor Andrew Geddis (reported by Fiona Rotherham on NBR Online’s pay-site).

Up until October last year television and radio advertising were assumed to be off limits for political advertising except for political parties in limited circumstances. But in October last year that thinking was reversed due to a Court of Appeal ruling that the Electoral Commission was wrong to have banned the satirical Planet Key song from being broadcast before the 2014 election.

The court said political parties and candidates were banned from using TV and radio except for the limited amount of time they are given by the Electoral Commission while everyone else is free to use it for political purposes, including lobby groups pushing their own barrow.

Prof Geddis personally checked out the ruling, booking a 30-second ad on student-owned radio station Radio One in Otago in which he attacked the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party “because I had to attack someone.” The Electoral Commission told him in writing he was free to run the ad following the Court of Appeal decision.

He thinks it opens the door for US-style negative campaigning before this year’s election. “Other people may have a lot more interest and money to attack parties than I have, so basically the rules have changed,” Prof Geddis said.

The attack
“If you as a company don’t like the government you can, up to three months before an election, spend as much as you like on TV and radio advertising attacking the government saying why it’s awful and its policies suck and so on. Within three months before an election you can spend up to $300,000 continuing that attack on the government,” he said.

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