Electoral Processes

 

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

EUOECD
 
All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
10
Finland
The access of candidates and parties to media and means of communication is fair in principle, but practical constraints, such as the duration and breadth of a program’s coverage, restrict access for smaller parties and candidates to televised debates and other media appearances. Given the increased impact of such appearances on the electoral outcome, this bias is somewhat problematic from the point of view of fairness and justice. However, the restrictions reflect practical considerations rather than ideological agendas. Access to newspapers and commercial forms of communication is unrestricted, though in practice it is dependent on the economic resources of parties and individual candidates. Candidates are required to report on the sources of their campaign funds. Social media play an increasing role in candidates’ electoral campaigns, as these outlets now attract a growing share of voters. This also means that candidates are less dependent on party organizations and external funding for campaigning. As a consequence of the enhanced role of social media, campaigns are likely to be longer at the same time as candidates are expected to continuously share their opinion on a multitude of issues. Such trends are especially important in Finland, since the country uses an open list proportional system in which the order candidates are elected from the party lists is dependent on the number of personal votes received.
Citations:
Strandberg, Kim (2012): Sosiaalisen median vallankumous? Ehdokkaat, valitsijat ja sosiaalinen media vuoden 2011 eduskuntavaaleissa. In: S. Borg (ed.), Muutosvaalit 2011, Helsinki: Ministry of Justice, 79-93.
Laakso, Mikko (2017). Sosiaalinen media vaalikampanjoinnissa.
Germany
Political campaigning is largely unregulated by federal legislation, a fact modestly criticized by the latest OSCE election report (OSCE 2018). Article 5 of the Political Parties Act (Parteiengesetz, PPA) requires that “where a public authority provides facilities or other public services for use by one party, equal treatment must be accorded to all parties.” During electoral campaigns, this general criterion applies to all parties that have submitted election applications (Art. 5 sec. 2). The extent of public services parties are able to use depends on their relative importance, which is based on each parties’ results in the last general election (Art. 5 sec. 3). This is called the “principle of gradual equality,” and constitutes the basis for parties’ access to media in conjunction with the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag). The gradual equality principle is also applied to television airtime, although in this case the time granted to large parliamentary parties is not allowed to exceed twice the amount offered to smaller parliamentary parties, which in turn receive no more than double the amount of airtime provided to parties currently unrepresented in parliament. While public media networks provide campaigns with airtime free of charge, private media are not allowed to charge airtime fees of more than 35% of what they demand for commercial advertising. Despite these rules, there is a persistent debate as to whether the media’s tendency to generally focus coverage on the six largest parties and, in particular, on government parties is too strong.
Citations:
OSCD (2018): Federal Republic of Germany. Elections to the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). 24 September 2018.
https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/germany/358936?download=true
Sweden
All candidates and all parties have equal opportunities of access to the national media and other means of communication. The equality among political candidates in terms of their access to media is to a large extent safeguarded by the public service rules of the SVT (public television) and Sverige Radio (SR), a public radio outlet.

The print media in Sweden is overwhelmingly center-right in its political allegiance and is therefore more likely to cover center-right candidates than candidates from the parties on the political left. However, journalists have a significantly stronger preference for the Green and the Left parties than does the electorate as a whole. There is also a genuine left-wing media, particularly present on the internet. The right-wing Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) was initially marginalized by mainstream media and some newspapers still refuse to publish their advertisements. Given the party’s sustained growth in elections and polls, however, they are now given somewhat more media coverage.

In Sweden, as elsewhere in Europe, the usage of social media and other new forms of information sharing are increasing. These media are becoming more important for political campaigns. Though the information provided by social and other electronic media is vast and varied, selectivity facilitates a more narrow consumption of information than in traditional print media.
Citations:
Andersson, U., A. Carlander, E. Lindgren, M. Oskarson (eds.) (2018), Sprickor i fasaden (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).

Asp, K. (2012), “Journalistkårens partisympatier,” in K. Asp (ed.), Svenska Journalister 1989-2011 (Gothenburg: JMG), 101-107.
Switzerland
Candidates and parties may purchase political advertising in the print media. The only restriction to equal access by candidates and parties to these media outlets relates to resources. In this regard, there is a lack of transparency as political parties and candidates are not required to disclose who is supporting them. In 2017, the Social Democratic Party collected sufficient signatures to force a vote on a constitutional “transparency” article, which will be held in the next few years. The initiative would require that political parties name donors that give more than CHF 10,000. Likewise, if a person spends CHF 100,000 or more on an electoral or a popular campaign, they must name all donors who gave at least CHF 10,000.

Political advertising on television or other broadcast media is not allowed. In this regard, all candidates and parties have equal access, in the sense that none are able to buy political advertising on broadcast media.

Media organizations give a fair and balanced opportunity to political actors to present their views and programs, insofar as this does not become simple advertisement. Right-wing politicians sometimes complain that journalists give center-left politicians better access. There is little hard evidence that such a bias exists to any substantial extent. On the other hand, representatives of the Swiss People’s Party have successfully used their economic resources to control quality papers (e.g., temporarily the Basler Zeitung) and they have tried to restrain the country’s leading newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
9
Denmark
Denmark is a liberal democracy. According to section 77 of the constitution, freedom of speech is protected: “Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.” Freedom of speech includes freedom of the press. Denmark ranks 5 out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index for 2019.

The penal code sets three limits to freedom of speech: libel, blasphemy and racism. The independent courts interpret the limits of these exceptions.

The public media (Denmark’s Radio and TV2) have to fulfill programming criteria of diversity and fairness. All political parties that plan to take part in elections, have the right to equal programming time on the radio and on television. Private media, mostly newspapers, tend also to be open to all parties and candidates. The trend decline in newspapers has implied a concentration on a few national newspapers, which has reduced media pluralism. However, all newspapers are, for instance, open to accepting and publishing letters to the editor. Likewise, all parties and candidates have equal possibilities of distributing pamphlets and posters. Finances can be a limiting factor, however, with the larger parties having more money for campaigns than smaller parties.
Citations:
Straffeloven [The Penal Code], http://www.themis.dk/synopsis/docs/Lovsamling/Straffeloven_indholdsfortegnelse.html (accessed 15 April 2013).

Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2019.” https://rsf.org/en/denmark (Accessed 1 December 2019)

Zahle Henrik, 2001, Dansk Forfatningsret 1.
Estonia
Candidates and political parties have fair and equal access to the public broadcasting and TV networks. Access to advertising on private networks and online, however, depends on the financial resources of the political parties. Therefore, smaller political parties and independent candidates have significantly limited access to mass media. There is no upper limit on electoral campaign expenses, which provides significant advantage to candidates and parties with more abundant financial resources. However, these disparities do not follow a coalition-opposition divide, nor is there discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious or gender status.

Because of the high internet penetration rate, various web and social media tools are becoming widely used in electoral campaigns, including election portals run by public and private media outlets. While this has so far helped candidates to reach a wider public cheaply, the parties have recently increased their online advertising expenditures.
France
According to French laws regulating electoral campaigns, all candidates must receive equal treatment in terms of access to public radio and television. Media time allocation is supervised by an ad hoc commission during the official campaign. Granted incumbents may be tempted to use their position to maximize their media visibility before the official start. Private media outlets are not obliged to follow these rules, but except for media outlets that expressly support certain party positions, newspapers and private media tend to fairly allocate media time to candidates, with the exception of marginal candidates who often run with the purpose of obtaining free media access. The paradox of this rule for equal time is that the presidential candidates who are likely to make it to the second round receive the same amount of media time as candidates who represent extremely marginal ideas or interests.
Greece
Incumbent political parties represented either in the national parliament or the European Parliament have equal opportunities for media access. However, in the 2015 –2019 period, the country’s national public broadcaster (ERT) primarily, if not exclusively, communicated the views of the Syriza-ANEL government coalition, as it had done until 2014 with its previous political masters, the PASOK and ND governments.

Private media are also selective in their reporting and many are sensationalist. Importantly, though, neither the state nor the private media air the opinions of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The party won parliamentary representation in the 2012 elections, and repeated its success by obtaining 7% of the vote in the two parliamentary elections of 2015. However, in the elections of July 2019, it fell below the threshold of 3% and thus did not elect any members of parliament.
Citations:
The trade union managed radio station’s website is http://www.ertopen.com/
Ireland
Irish political issues continue to receive widespread and detailed coverage in the press, on radio and on TV. Media coverage – especially on radio and TV – is subject to strict guidelines designed to ensure equity of treatment between the political parties. The state-owned national broadcasting company (RTÉ) allows equal access to all parties that have more than a minimum number of representatives in the outgoing parliament. Smaller political parties and independent candidates find it less easy to gain access to the national media. However, any imbalances that may exist at the national level tend to be offset at the local level through coverage by local radio stations and newspapers. Subject to normal public safety and anti-litter regulations, all parties and candidates are free to erect posters in public spaces. There were no significant changes in this area during the review period.

It is worth noting, though, that following legislation in 2009 (the Broadcasting Act), the 2011 election was the first in which RTÉ no longer operated entirely under self-regulation. This legislation meant that for the first time the regulation of both private and public broadcasters was vested in a single body, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). While these changes occurred prior to the current review period, research in this area is only just becoming available (see reference). The BAI does not, so far, seem to be all that effective in increasing transparency, although research suggests that RTÉ does have internal procedures that pay a great deal of attention to its statutory requirement to achieve “balance.”

All newspaper groups in Ireland are privately owned commercial operations. There have been some concerns about the dominant market positions of some media groups, in particular Independent News and Media.
Citations:
Kevin Rafter (2015), ‘Regulating the Airwaves: How Political Balance is Achieved in Practice in Election News Coverage.’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 575-594.
Kevin Rafter (2018), ‘The Media and Politics,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (2018, eds) Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 6th edition. Routledge.
Lithuania
The publicly owned media are obliged to provide equal access to all political parties and coalitions. Debate programs on the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television are financed by the Central Electoral Commission. The media are also obliged to offer all campaigns the same terms when selling air time for paid campaign advertisements.

Newly introduced restrictions on political advertising, as well as restrictions on corporate donations to political parties, reduced the ability of the most-well-financed parties to dominate the airwaves in the run-up to the elections. Privately owned media organizations are not obliged to provide equal access to all political parties.

According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Lithuania’s media environment general demonstrated ample plurality of opinion during the 2016 parliamentary elections, with the freedom of expression generally respected. However, there were some controversies concerning interference with editorial independence. The OSCE similarly concluded that the “media provided extensive coverage, which enabled citizens to make an informed choice” after the country’s 2019 presidential elections.

During the run-up to the 2014 presidential elections, the media environment was diverse and coverage of the campaign was thoroughly regulated. Candidates were provided with free airtime on an equal basis by the public broadcaster and all media were obliged to provide equal conditions for paid advertising. Although it was asserted by some that incumbent officials were provided with more media coverage, this did not create an uneven playing field for candidates. After the 2019 presidential elections, the OSCE recommended reviewing the rules governing media conduct during electoral campaigns, with the aim of clearly distinguishing paid political advertising from other forms of campaign coverage. Currently, the vague definition of political advertising leaves space for arbitrary decisions, the organization indicated.

One of the rare recent controversies had to do with attempts in 2018 by the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Party to change the oversight of the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television – viewed by the analysts as an attempt to politicize its activities and influence the content of broadcasting (see also Media Freedom).
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report on the 2019 presidential election in Lithuania, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/433352?download=true
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
Luxembourg
All newspapers have at least some ties to political parties, reflecting the interests of the publications’ owners. They tend to be rather biased or partisan, especially during election campaigns. While Luxembourger Wort was always considered to be close to the Christian Social People’s Party, Tageblatt is affiliated with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party and the Lëtzebuerger Journal has close links to the Democratic Party. To shore up their dwindling readerships, newspapers have adopted a more balanced line in recent years, reducing their political bias, to the benefit of smaller parties and organizations. However, circulation figures continue to drop at all newspapers. At the same time, new journalistic projects are being created, such as Reporter, an online magazine that offers serious in-depth journalism and has no advertising.

The satirical political newspaper Feierkrop stopped publication in late 2018. The weekly newspaper was effective in revitalizing the political landscape and presenting critical remarks.

There are no significant public broadcasters. However, the main private broadcaster Radio Télé Luxembourg guarantees balanced reporting as a condition of its concessionary contract with the state of Luxembourg. During election campaigns, parliament provides the political party lists with airtime and the opportunity to broadcast television ads. Furthermore, the government organizes roundtables with candidates from all party lists. The financing of election campaigns, especially the distribution of promotional leaflets by mail, is regulated by law.

The media market is becoming more pluralistic. Reports and comments in print media have become less partisan and the media increasingly distances itself from political party influence than in previous years. Having made some initial progress in 2019, the government is expected to significantly revise press subsidies in the near future, with the aim of redistributing financial aid to support online media as well as print media.
Citations:
“Traditionelle Medien in Luxemburg.” Zentrum fir politesch Bildung. May 2018. https://zpb.lu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Fact-Sheet-Medien-DE-30.05.2018_acc.pdf. Accessed 22 Oct. 2019.

“Medien: Neue Regeln für die Pressehilfe.” Luxemburger Wort, 4 January 2018. https://www.wort.lu/de/politik/medien-neue-regeln-fuer-die-pressehilfe-5a4e55afc1097cee25b7b50f. Accessed 22 Oct. 2019.

“Mediennutzung junger, politisch interessierter Menschen in Luxemburg.” In: forum, 2018, no. 383, pp. 11 - 13.
Portugal
Parties have access to broadcast time on television and radio for political purposes during the official campaign period of two weeks preceding an election. This time is divided equally among the parties, according to the number of candidates they present. Parties need to present lists in at least 25% of electoral districts, and field a total number of candidates equal to at least one-quarter of the total number of possible candidates, to qualify for these broadcasts. These short broadcasts (lasting a maximum of three minutes for each party) air during prime-time, and have a non-negligible audience.

If one considers media access more broadly, access to news programs and political debates is overwhelmingly concentrated on the five main political forces: PSD, PS, CDS, PCP and BE. These five forces have almost entirely monopolized parliamentary representation since 1999. Television news coverage, which is popular in terms of TV ratings and is the predominant source of information for the Portuguese, is heavily concentrated on them.
Slovakia
Slovakia’s media market is sufficiently pluralistic to ensure that all candidates and parties have fair access to the media. The law on elections calls for equal access to mass media for all candidates. The law also stipulates that no candidate should be favored over any other and that campaign advertising has to be clearly distinguished from other media content. The public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) has to introduce candidates and present their campaigns, while private media outlets have the freedom to do so. The 2019 presidential election campaign was supervised by the Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (RVR), which did not report any serious violations. Fears that the politicization of RTVS under Jaroslav Rezník, its controversial director since August 2017, would lead to unbalanced coverage of the 2019 campaign proved to be unfounded.

However, concerns about equal access to the media have increased following attempts to introduce moratoriums on the broadcasting of political advertisements and publication of opinion poll results. Since the 2017 regional elections, TV and radio stations have not been allowed to broadcast political advertisements within 48 hours of an election. This ban has been criticized for its selectiveness in not including internet broadcasting or broadcasting from abroad. In October 2019, the Slovak parliament – with the votes of two of the three governing parties (Smer-SD and SNS) and the far-right opposition party ĽSNS – passed a bill prolonging the moratorium on the publication of opinion polls from the current 14 to 50 days before an election day, one of the longest moratoriums in the world. The bill provoked massive criticism, and was criticized by President Čaputová, Prime Minister Pellegrini and Ombudswoman Patakyová. While parliament overrode the president’s veto in November 2019, the Constitutional Court eventually declared the bill unconstitutional in December 2019.
Netherlands
The Media Law (Article 39g) requires that political parties with one or more seats in either chamber of the States General be allotted time on the national broadcasting stations (radio, television) during the parliamentary term, provided that they participate in nationwide elections. The Commission for the Media ensures that political parties are given equal media access free from government influence or interference (Article 11.3). The commission is also responsible for allotting national broadcasting time to political parties participating in European elections. Broadcasting time is denied only to parties that have been fined for breaches of Dutch anti-discrimination legislation. The public prosecutor is bringing discrimination charges against Geert Wilders, the leading member of parliament representing the Party for Freedom. However, individual media outlets decide themselves how much attention to pay to political parties and candidates. Since 2004, state subsidies for participating in elections have been granted only to parties already represented in the States General. Whether this practice constitutes a form of unequal treatment for newcomers is currently a matter of discussion.
However, media access these days also means access to social media (Twitter, blogs, YouTube), especially when competing for younger voters (18 – 35 age group). Dutch political parties have together spent more than €200,000 on F acebook advertisements in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in 2019. Public debate on topics of this nature is only beginning, inspired by issues such as the general financing of political parties, access to social media by new political parties, movements with strong but undisclosed financial support, and foreign interference in national elections.
Citations:
NU.nl, 3 November 2019. Politieke partijen gaven 200.000 euro uit aan Facebook-advertenties

Adformatie, 1 nNovember 2016. VVD strijdt ook ‘achter Facebook’ en boekt meeste succes op social media (Adformatie.nl, accessed 3 November, 2019)
 
Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
8
Australia
There are no explicit barriers restricting access to the media for any political party or candidate. The media is generally independent, and highly activist. Furthermore, the public broadcasters – the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – are required under the Australian Broadcasting Act to provide balanced coverage. In practice, the two dominant parties attract most coverage and it is somewhat difficult for minor parties to obtain media coverage. For example, the ABC has a practice of providing free air time to each of the two main parties (Labor and the Liberal-National coalition) during the election campaign, a service not extended to other political parties. Print media is highly concentrated and biased toward the established parties. However, independent and minor-party senators do attract considerable media attention when the governing party does not have a majority in the Senate, and therefore requires their support to pass legislation. In recent decades, this has been the rule rather than the exception.

In terms of advertising, there are no restrictions on expenditures by candidates or parties, although no advertising is permitted in the three days up to and including polling day. Inequity in access to the media through advertising does arguably arise, as the governing party has the capacity to run advertising campaigns that nominally serve to provide information to the public about government policies and programs, but which are in fact primarily conducted to advance the electoral interests of the governing party.
Canada
While national media outlets do demonstrate political orientations, in general there is fair and balanced coverage of election campaigns and parties. Under sections 335, 339 and 343 of the Canada Elections Act, every broadcaster in Canada is required to make a minimum of 390 minutes of airtime during each federal general election available for purchase by registered political parties. The allocation of airtime among the parties is usually based on a formula that takes into account factors such as the party’s percentage of seats in the House of Commons, its percentage of the popular vote in the last general election, and the number of candidates it endorsed as a percentage of all candidates. The Canadian system is primarily one of paid political advertising; that is, any broadcasting time used before an election has to be paid for. While CBC/Radio-Canada does provide a small amount free airtime to federal and provincial parties, this does not represent a significant share of political advertising in Canada. However, whether or not this translated into unequal access is unclear, as campaign spending regulations likely impose de facto limits on how much parties can actually spend on televised advertising time.
The Elections Act restricts the amount any outside group can spend on political advertising during a normal-length political campaign to CAD 500,000 (as of 2019), with no more than CAD 4,000 being spent in any one electoral district. New legislation also limits on pre-election spending; in the three-month period before the official start of the campaign period, non-party entities can spend no more than CAD 1 million, while political parties can spent up to CAD 1.5 million on advertising in this period.
Citations:
Parliament of Canada, Bill C-23: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, posted at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId =6684613.

Sinha Awanish, “Canada’s Election Laws are Changing- Here’s what you need to know,” 10 May 2018, accessed on 27th October 2019. https://www.mccarthy.ca/en/insights/articles/canadas-election-laws-are-changing-heres-what-you-need-know
Italy
A significant portion of television channels are owned by a single political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, and demonstrate a special favor toward him and his party. Overall, however, the media offers a reasonably fair treatment of all political candidates. The most important national newspapers and privately owned television broadcasters offer fairly equal access to all positions. State television maintains a generally neutral position.

Access to television by parties and candidates is regulated by a law (Law 28/2000) that provides for equal time for each party during electoral campaigns. An independent oversight authority (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni) ensures that the rules are followed and has the power to levy penalties for violations. This power is effectively used. The public television service is controlled by a parliamentary committee, which reflects the composition of the whole parliament. Although the government in office typically attracts more airtime than the opposition, the treatment of the different parties by the public broadcaster is fairly balanced overall. In the print sector, the large variety of newspapers both with and without a clear political orientation provides sufficiently balanced coverage of all positions.

As the role of electronic (internet) and social media in political contests continues to grow, politicians and parties can rely increasingly on these new forms of media to reach citizens and voters more directly. This fact makes political players more independent from large media groups and public media.
Japan
Access to the media for electioneering purposes is regulated by the Public Offices Election Law, and basically ensures a well-defined rule set for all candidates. Since 2013 the law has allowed the use of social media such as Twitter in electoral campaigning as well as more liberal use of banner advertisements. The use of such campaign-communications tools has varied among parties and candidates. Regulations are in place to prevent abuses such as the use of false online identities.
Citations:
Diet OKs Bill To Allow Online Election Campaign, Nikkei.com, 19 April 2013

2017 Lower House Election/Parties bet on the web to reach voters, The Japan News by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 16 October 2017, http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004006308

Narumi Ota, Abe using star power, social media to appeal to young voters, The Asahi Shimbun, 3 July 2019, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201907030064.html

Doug Tsuruoka, Asia ahead of US in passing laws against social media abuse, Asia Times, Bangkok, 1 March 2018, http://www.atimes.com/article/asia-ahead-us-passing-laws-social-media-abuse/
New Zealand
According to the 2017 Election Integrity report, media coverage (together with campaign finance) was evaluated to be relatively poor in comparison with equivalent democracies in Asia/Oceania and western Europe. With a score of 48 (on a scale from 0 to 100), New Zealand was evaluated worse than South Korea (56) and Japan (52). Major issues are the allocation of election broadcasting time based on criteria that favor the two largest parties, leading to unequal access to funds for political campaign broadcasts and a potentially undue influence exercised by non-party actors. Although in some previous elections televised debates included the leaders of all parliamentary parties, during the 2017 general election the main debates were restricted to the leaders of the two major parties, with the leaders of the largest of the small parties being invited to debate separately (NZ First’s Winston Peters declined to participate). A formal complaint over the exclusion of small parties from the debate was rejected by the courts. In addition to concerns about the fair treatment of minor parties in a multiparty system, the two-tiered arrangement was criticized for thwarting discussion about possible combinations for any future multiparty government. In fact, in its report on the 2017 election, the Election Commission again recommended “that Parliament considers whether the allocation criteria and the current broadcasting regime are fit for purpose.”
Citations:
Report of the Election Commission on the 2017 General Election. April 2018. https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/plain-page/attachments/report_o f_the_2017_general_election.pdf
Pippa Norris, Thomas Wynter and Sarah Cameron. March 2018. Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017. https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017/
Norway
Candidates and parties are free to purchase political advertising in print publications and on the internet. Advertisements from political parties are not allowed on television or radio, but they are allowed on digital media. This ban has been subject to some controversy, with the populist Progress Party advocating a removal of the restriction. The other political parties are opposed to changing the law.

Television and radio broadcasters, both public and private, organize many electoral debates, to which all major parties (those with a vote share larger than 3% in the previous election) have fair access. There is no direct government interference in choosing the teams of journalists that conduct debates. In general, however, representatives of the larger parties are interviewed more often and participate in more debates than do small-party candidates. Political advertising during election campaigns is extensively regulated to ensure that voters are aware of sources.

The Norwegian media landscape is rapidly changing as digital media replaces print media, which is struggling to survive. In parallel, traditional media houses see that revenues from ads are moving away from Norway to global companies (e.g., Google and Facebook) which contribute little in terms of tax revenues and the promotion of Norwegian culture and language.
Spain
The media environment is pluralistic and offers a diverse range of views. In the context of the April 2019 elections, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights noted that overall Spanish media operates freely, despite some concerns regarding to the concentration of media ownership. All democratic parties or candidates have access to the public media without unreasonable or systematic discrimination. The electoral law regulates strictly the access to public television and public radio networks during electoral campaigns. The system is even very rigid, allocating times for free advertisement slots (paid advertising is not allowed) and news coverage. Thus, parties receive a free slot every day, with its length depending on their share of the vote in the previous elections.

A similar system operates with regard to news coverage, where the time allocated to each party is also proportional to the previous electoral results. A reform of the electoral law in 2011 extended the system of proportional news coverage during the electoral period to privately owned television stations. New candidates or parties find it difficult to gain public media access in this system. In April 2019, election officials suspended a five-candidate televised debate on a private network (Atresmedia group), which would have included the far-right party Vox. The decision came after three regional parties from Catalonia, Basque Country and the Canary Islands complained that they were being left out. According to the legal framework, private networks are obliged to respect the same principles of “neutrality and equality” as public stations and only parties that had earned at least 5% of votes at the last general election could participate in these debates. Though this did not prevent Vox from achieving electoral gains. After having obtained more than 5% in the April 2019 elections, Vox participated in the TV debate for the November 2019 elections.

Apart from this special regulation for campaigns, empirical work shows a significant connection between media and parties with the same political orientation. For parties not represented in parliament and which therefore have no legal guarantee to broadcast time, the situation is more difficult. They must rely on the internet and small direct digital TV channels.

During the April/May 2019 elections, many party representatives raised general concerns about the spread and impact of online disinformation.
Citations:
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Spain Early Parliamentary Elections, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/spain/416252
7
Austria
During electoral campaigns, all parties with parliamentary representation have the right to participate in unbiased debates hosted by a public broadcaster. This can be seen as an obstacle to new parties, which are not covered by this guarantee. During the 2019 electoral campaign, private TV channels competed with the public TV broadcaster (ORF) in organizing almost daily discussions between representatives of political parties – with priority usually given to parties represented in the parliament. The tendency for private channels to compete with the ORF has created a situation that has been critically described as “overfeeding” the public. However, according to all public opinion data, public interest in the debates in general did not decline.

Political parties have what is, in principle, an unlimited ability to take out print advertisements, as long as the source of the advertisement is openly declared. This gives established parties, parties with better access to funding and especially government coalition parties an advantage. The advantage parties in government enjoy is significant on the provincial and local levels as well as the federal level. This helps to create a kind of balanced pluralism among the established parties, as parties in opposition on one level (e.g., the SPÖ has been in opposition on federal level since 2017) are in power in some provinces (e.g., the SPÖ is currently in power in Vienna, Carinthia and Burgenland).

As in all democracies, a political party’s ability to present its perspectives depends on its financial capacity. Despite recently implemented rules to guarantee greater balance, it is public knowledge that several parties significantly overspent during the electoral campaigns of 2013 and 2017, and – probably – in 2019 (though final data for 2019 is not available yet).
Belgium
All mainstream political parties, or so-called democratic parties, have broadly equal access to the media (however, equal media airtime is not guaranteed by law). Minor parties and so-called non-democratic (essentially post-fascist) parties do not have equal access to media, as the main TV stations, for instance, reserve the right to ban such political parties from broadcasts. Print media also offer broad and mostly balanced coverage of political parties, although some newspapers may have preferential links to this or that party “family.”

The influence of post-fascist or national-populist parties varies depending on geographical region. In Flanders, the national-populist Vlaams Belang is considered to be an acceptable party for media interviews and broadcasts. The communist PTB/PVdA receives considerable media coverage across the country since it is now represented in parliament, has a quite mediagenic leader and is popular in polls (especially among French-speaking Belgians). All other parties have quite fair access to the media. Difficulty of access seems to be a substantial issue only for ultra-minority parties, largely because of their small size.
Cyprus
Parties’ and candidates’ media access is only regulated for radio and television. There is no law for digital media and no coverage obligation for the press. However, almost all newspapers and their online editions offer coverage to all parties and candidates.

The Law on Radio and Television 7(I)/1998 and specific regulations require equitable and non-discriminatory treatment by commercial radio and television. The law on the public broadcaster (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, RIK) and regulations provide for fair and equitable treatment of political actors. Equity must be respected, particularly during the pre-election period. However, the definition of “pre-election period” varies in duration. Airtime must be allotted in accordance with a political party’s share of parliamentary seats and the extent of its territorial organization.

Broadcasters are required to adopt an in-house code of coverage. The Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA) monitors the compliance of commercial broadcasters, but does not publish findings. It does, however, produce an annual report on the public broadcaster. Rare special reports offer little insight for scrutiny. Paid political advertising on broadcast media is allowed during the 40 days preceding elections, on equal terms for all, without discrimination. It appears that there is compliance with the rules on media access. However, the absence of publicly available codes of conduct and relevant reports negatively impacts our evaluation.

Finally, during the EP elections in 2019, the percentage of female candidates and media access accorded to women was very low. The lack of a gender balance in politics and social life continues to be a matter of great concern.
Citations:
1. The Law on Radio and Television Stations, L. 7(I)/1998, in English, available at http://crta.org.cy/images/users/1/FINAL%20CONSOLIDATED%20LAW%2016.3.17.pdf
2. Report on RIK, public broadcaster for 2018 (in Greek), CRTA, http://crta.org.cy/images/users/1/EKTHESI_RIK_2018.pdf
3. Regulations on fair treatment of parties and candidates, Normative Administrative Acts (NAA) 193/2006 available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2006/1641.pdf (in Greek), and NAA 207/2009 (on European Parliament Elections), available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2009/1087.pdf (in Greek).
Iceland
Formally, all parties or candidates have equal access to media. There are no restrictions based on race, gender, language, or other such demographic factors. However, parties already represented in the national parliament or in local councils have an electoral advantage over new parties or candidates. Furthermore, in the 2013 parliamentary election campaign, several media organizations systematically discriminated against small or new parties, which opinion polls had indicated were unlikely to surpass the 5% minimum vote threshold. However, the state-run media cover all major parties. During the election campaign in the autumn 2017 elections, two small parties complained about not being allowed to participate in the party leader debate on the state-run TV the night before the election day. However, both parties were seen to have very low support and neither fielded candidates in every constituency.
Israel
One of the foundation stones of Israeli democracy is its free press and media. As part of this foundation, laws have been passed to ensure equal media access for all candidates and parties. Moreover, the criteria for allocating airtime during election campaigns is impartial: it is not subjected to any kind of arbitrary considerations or determined by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

More specifically, under the Election Law (Propaganda Means), it is stated that the chairman of the Central Elections Committee determines the television and radio broadcasting time provided to each list of candidates. On radio, each list is entitled to 15 minutes plus a further four minutes for every member of the departing Knesset. On TV, each list is entitled to seven minutes plus a further two minutes for every member of the departing Knesset. All propaganda broadcasts must be at the parties’ own expense and must be approved in advance by the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

While election broadcasting rights are fair and balanced, achieving equal media representation is a routine challenge. Most notably, minorities often remain under-represented. For example, Arab Israeli interviewees are under-represented in broadcasts by Hebrew media outlets. According to the Representation Index – a collaboration between the Sikkuy Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the “Seventh Eye” media watchdog journal and the Ifat media research institute –Arab Israelis accounted for 2.7% of appearances on Israeli television and radio shows in the first half of 2019. Media coverage of the Joint List, its representatives to the Knesset and Arab Israeli candidates from other party lists was also relatively low during the two elections held in 2019. However, Arab Israelis as a percentage of all speakers in election bulletins increased significantly from 4.5% prior to the April 2019 elections to 7.5% by the September 2019 elections.

In recent years, the number of Jewish-only public opinion surveys has decreased, following criticism waged by the Seventh Eye media watchdog and changes made to the Israel Press Council’s ethical rules. While those surveys sometimes presented as representing the Israeli public opinion, the fact that they exclude Arab Israeli citizens is usually not mentioned.
Citations:
Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and election financing in Israel,” Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Persiko, Oren, “An increase in the number of Arab speakers in election bulletin,” The Seventh Eye, 26.9.2019 (Hebrew):
https://www.the7eye.org.il/346075

Persiko, Oren, “On the way down,” The Seventh Eye, 20.8.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.the7eye.org.il/341556

Persiko, Oren, “Mid-2019: 2.7% representation of Arab society, which constitutes about 20% of the population,” The Seventh Eye, 17.7.2019 (Hebrew):
https://www.the7eye.org.il/336325

Persisko, Oren, “The right thing,” The Seventh Eye, 1.11.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.the7eye.org.il/349660

Shwartz-Altshuler and Lurie, Guy, “Redesign the Israeli Election Propaganda Arrangements“, Israel democracy institute website 6.4.2015: https://bit.ly/2ziXcKa (Hebrew)

Stern, Itay. “Israeli-Arab Representation on TV Talk Shows Shot Up in 2016”(Hebrew), 02.02.2017, Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.769065”

Zarchia, Z. “The Constitution Committee has approved to introduce a bill suggesting to cancel the prohibit on election propaganda two months before elections” 11.07.18, Calcalist: https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3742130,00.html
Latvia
There are no laws or self-regulatory measures that provide access to airtime on private channels for political actors during election campaigns. Generally, the representation of different political groups is balanced.

Electoral candidates and every political party have equal access to the media. Publicly financed election broadcasts on public and private television are equally available to all, although debates between political party leaders before elections often feature only those parties polling around and above the 5% threshold in the polls.

The national media system as a whole provides fair and balanced coverage. Individually, however, media outlets do not consistently provide fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions. Local newspapers and electronic media in Latvia’s rural regions are often dependent on advertising and other support from the local authorities, sometimes leading to unbalanced coverage favoring incumbents. Local government-owned print media is pushing independent local media out of the market, leaving only local government-owned outlets to function as a public relations arm for incumbents. Meanwhile, the opaque ownership structures of media outlets mean that support for political actors is often implied rather than clearly stated as an editorial position. Corrupt political journalism has been prevalent across a wide spectrum of the media. There are also marked imbalances in media coverage related to the different linguistic communities. For example, both Latvian and Russian-language media demonstrate a bias toward their linguistic audiences.
Citations:
1. Rožukalne, A. (2016) Monitoring Risks for Media Pluralism in the EU and Beyond: Latvia, Available at: https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/46802/Latvia_EN.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y, Last assessed: 04.11.2019.

2. Rožukalne, A. (2010), Research Paper on Hidden Advertising Issues in the Media, Available at (in Latvian): http://politika.lv/article_files/2117/original/slepta_reklama_mediju_prakse.pdf?1343212009, Last assessed: 04.11.2019

3. OSCE: Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Parliamentary Elections 6 October 2018:
ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report, Available at: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/latvia/409344?download=true, Last assessed: 04.11.2019
South Korea
Candidate media access has improved under the Moon administration. Under past conservative administrations, the Korea Communications Standards Commission and the National Election Commission have sought to block accounts or fine online users for online comments critical of the government or the ruling party. It has even come to light that the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) used social-media posts to support President Park’s elections in 2012. Recently, the use of social-media bots to influence online discussions has also become a matter of concern. The immensely controversial National Security Law also applies to online media, creating significant limitations regarding the freedom of expression. The opaque character of South Korean election law concerning allowable support for candidates during the election period, which can last for up to 180 days before an election, represents an electoral gray area. According to some interpretations of Article 93 of the election law, all public expressions of support for candidates or parties are illegal during that period unless one is registered as an official campaigner. This can be seen as a disadvantage for smaller candidates who do not have the same access to traditional media. In general, small parties have a difficult time gaining coverage in the mainstream media. However, YouTube and other social networks have become very influential means of public communication for all candidates and parties.
Citations:
“Do you know the dismissed journalists?” Journalists Association of Korea, January 20, 2016. (in Korean) http://www.journalist.or.kr/news/article.html?no=38319
Kyunghyang.Competition of new media strategies among presidential candidates. March 16, 2017. http://sports.khan.co.kr/bizlife/sk_index.html?art_id=201703161022003&sec_id=561101&pt=nv
Sent, Dylan. 2018. “Social Media Manipulation of Public Opinion in Korean Elections.” The Diplomat, August 31. Retrieved October 13, 2018 (https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/social-media-manipulation-of-public-opinion-in-korean-elections/)
UK
The media play a central role in political campaigning, and the importance of coverage has further increased in recent years through the rise of social media and the internet. Television remains the most important medium for campaigning in general elections. Paid TV advertising is prohibited for political parties, who can only advertise in newspapers. However, major parties are granted a certain amount of free time for TV advertising, a concession that is not available to minor parties and which could be construed as a deterrent to them.

Coverage on television is fair and balanced, and monitored by Ofcom, the industry regulator. Broadcasters are required to be balanced in their coverage of parties, especially at election time. Though there has been regular criticism of how broadcasters interpret the term “balance.” On occasion, a minority view (for example on climate change) will be given equal weight by organizations such as the BBC. No such restrictions exist for the print industry and indeed there is strong tradition of crass partiality, especially by some newspaper groups that are prominent in national political life, visible once more during the Brexit referendum campaign of 2016 and the ensuing political quarrels. There is therefore a marked imbalance between print and broadcast. Independent fact-checking agencies, such as Full Fact, which complement media presentations of statistics, try to highlight misleading claims and will be cited in media analyses.
Citations:
https://fullfact.org/
6
Croatia
Amendments to the election law in February 2015 changed the legal framework for media coverage of parliamentary elections as part of an effort to end the “clogging” of the media space by minor candidates. As a result of the amendments, private broadcasters are no longer obliged to cover the campaign and public broadcasters can decide themselves whether to provide candidates proportional rather than equal coverage in reports and analysis. Moreover, debates among candidates have been restricted to only one per broadcaster. After the public broadcaster HRT decided to involve only five parties (a decision based on public opinion polls) for a scheduled debate in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections, the State Electoral Committee judged this decision to be arbitrary and the debate was canceled. Before the 2016 parliamentary elections, HRT broadcast a debate with only the leading candidates of the two biggest parties, thereby ignoring Most-NL’s strong showing in the previous elections and its strategic role. Most-NL and the smaller parties thus complained of discrimination. In the case of the 2019 presidential elections, HTV reacted to these complaints and invited all 11 candidates to a public debate. In contrast, calls by several NGOs to give the Agency for Electronic Media of the Republic of Croatia a more important role in applying the media provisions of the electoral law were not taken up.
Czechia
The electoral law guarantees parties access to state radio and television, with a total of 14 hours set aside for all parties to express their views with equal allocation irrespective of the party’s size or previous electoral performance. Thus, all parties do have access to the public media, although presentations are often tedious and unlikely to hold viewers’ and listeners’ attention. Space is also provided by municipalities for billboards, and political advertisements are carried in newspapers. There is a distinct coverage bias toward the larger parties, due to more significant resources and a perception of importance. Moreover, coverage by private media is less balanced than that of public media.
Mexico
The electoral process in Mexico is subject to a comparatively high degree of regulation. During the transition to democracy during the 1990s, electoral laws were revised to ensure more equitable conditions for the main political parties.

Currently, all registered political parties are eligible for public financing, the volume of which corresponds to their electoral strength. There are restrictions on the amount of money parties are allowed to raise and spend. Media access during the official campaign period is regulated to ensure a measure of equality. Nevertheless, outside the tightly regulated political campaigns, news coverage is often heavily biased in favor of incumbents. Presidents as well as governors spend exorbitant sums on advertising and pro-government propaganda. Since news outlets rely on this income for their financial survival, they can often scarcely afford to criticize sitting administrations. The Peña Nieto administration has taken this long-standing practice to new levels. According to a report compiled by the think tank Fundar based on government data, his administration spent nearly $2 on advertising in the past five years, substantially more than any previous administrations.

Broadcasting networks and newspapers depend on that money, the big television networks Televisa and Azteca receive around 10% of their advertisement revenue from the federal government. A Supreme Court ruling in November 2017 demanded further regulation and limitation, but the new provisions are yet to be implemented.

In the 2018 campaign, the winner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was challenged by the mainstream media, although his use of social media and the support he received from activists successfully overcame this. The oligopolized market of traditional media has lost political weight. Once in office, López Obrador started a daily press conference, which is broadcast live on YouTube. This approach enables the president to avoid immediate press criticism and promote his agenda.
Citations:
New York Times (25 Dec 2017) “Using Billions in Government Cash, Mexico Controls News Media.”
Slovenia
While both the public and private media tend to focus on the parliamentary political parties, Slovenia’s public-media regulatory system and pluralist media environment ensure that all candidates and parties have access to the media. The public TV and radio stations are legally obliged to set aside some airtime for parties to present their messages and their candidates. Since a third public TV channel (mainly covering parliamentary debates) was established in 2014, airtime for political parties and candidate lists has increased. But neither the regulatory body nor civil society organizations systematically monitor media coverage during a campaign. A number of televised debates featuring representatives of all 14 political parties and lists that had candidates were held in the run-up to European Parliament elections in May 2019. However, media access has suffered from the growing polarization between mainstream and opposition media.
USA
In a broad sense, media access is fair, although the U.S. media exhibit some significant biases. Publicly funded media have access to relatively modest budgets, most of which is financed through community support. Most media organizations are privately owned, for-profit enterprises, independent of the government and political parties. Some media, such as the MSNBC cable news network, have a strong liberal and Democratic party bias. Others, most notably Fox News Channel, have a fervent conservative and/or Republican bias.

It is important to note that during election campaigns, media messages are often dominated by paid advertising. Such advertising can reflect massive imbalances in the fundraising capabilities of the opposing candidates or parties, with a modest, inconsistent advantage for the Republicans. During the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump held a strong advantage in free air-time on news media because audiences were interested in his frequent use of extreme rhetoric at campaign rallies.
Since the 2016 campaign, citizens have reported accessing political campaign information through social media (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) as often as through traditional news sources, even though social media have proved to be highly useful in efforts to spread misinformation. Despite being subject to considerable criticism during congressional hearings held in 2019, Facebook has resisted taking responsibility in terms of preventing the dissemination of false and misleading content on its platform.

The unprecedented biases and distortions found within right-wing media outlets and the vulnerability of social media to misinformation suggest that citizens no longer enjoy uncompromised access to reliable information.
Citations:
https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-to-combat-fake-news-and-disinformation/
 
Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
5
Bulgaria
Media access for candidates and parties differs between publicly and privately run media. The public broadcast media – one TV and one radio station with several channels each – are required by law to provide full and balanced coverage and to set aside time for every candidate and registered party or coalition to make their own presentations. With a large number of parties or candidates usually in the running, as was the case with both elections in 2019, splitting the time between all is a serious challenge that leaves most participants dissatisfied. Between electoral campaigns, parties not already represented in parliament have little access to public media, especially if they are considered to be potentially serious competitors by the incumbent parties. During the municipal election campaign in October 2019, one of the candidates for mayor of Sofia caused a scandal during a televised debate by attempting to prevent other candidates from taking the floor. All assessments of the event agree that public television service handled the situation professionally. The man was invited to leave the studio, and the live broadcast was paused and resumed only after he had been escorted out of the studio by police officers.

Access to privately owned media, which dominate the market, is not regulated and to a large extent a function of influence or financing. Many private media firms are in the hands of business groups heavily involved in dealings with the state. These organizations tend to present the ruling majority in a positive light, or to block the access of competing political candidates, in exchange for favorable business deals. In the case of local elections, many of these media outlets support specific local candidates and coalitions connected to these special interests.

The role of non-traditional media in Bulgarian elections is increasing. Online resources have played a prominent role in referendum and election campaigns in since 2015. In the 2019 EU Parliament elections, a significant share of the unexpectedly large vote for individual independent candidates can be attributed to their active use of such outreach platforms, and in the municipal elections at least one well-known blogger won a mayoral position in one of Sofia’s 24 districts.
Citations:
Price, L. T. (2018). “Bear in Mind… and Do Not Bite the Hand That Feeds You”: Institutionalized Self-Censorship and Its Impact on Journalistic Practice in Postcommunist Countries – the Case of Bulgaria. In: Eric Freedman, Robyn S. Goodman, Elanie Steyn (eds.), Critical Perspectives on Journalistic Beliefs and Actions. London/ New York: Routledge, 211-221.
Malta
Malta has both state and private media. The Maltese constitution provides for a Broadcasting Authority (BA). Owing to its composition and appointment procedure, the BA is not perceived as an independent regulator. Its job is to supervise broadcasting and ensure impartiality. However, the BA focuses on the PBS (public broadcasting service) and not private outlets. It also does not monitor campaign coverage but rather acts on complaints. During elections, the BA provides for equal time for the two major political parties on state television on its own political debate programs as well as airtime for political advertising. The 2018 Media Monitor assigned the country’s media a risk score of just 25% in terms of the media and democratic electoral processes, thus emphasizing that different political actors were represented fairly, as mandated by law. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index relegated Malta to 77th place, down 12 places from the previous report. However, opinion pieces in the Times of Malta and Malta Today, two of the island’s main newspapers, as well as the Institute of Maltese Journalists, were critical of the negative ranking. However, smaller parties or independent candidates do not receive equal treatment by the state-owned media. In the 2017 elections, the small parties were not able to participate in the main pre-election debates on the PBS; several formal complaints were filed by the smaller parties. The PBS management is appointed by government, which is said to negatively impact its independence. The fault lies with the two main parties, as they alone can change the BA’s constitutional status. However, complaints to the broadcasting watchdog have become negligible. There is no law that makes government office incompatible with media ownership; both parties own media outlets, giving them an advantage over smaller parties. The 2017 Media Monitor notes that Malta is the only EU country where political parties have such extensive media ownership. The BA and the Press Act require party-run media to allow for a right of reply to an aggrieved party or individual. Access to newspapers becomes increasingly restricted at election time; unrestricted access is obtainable at a cost.

Due to increased competition and the proliferation of privately owned radio and television stations and online news outlets all candidates can now access time in the media to present their views, albeit at a cost. However, the 2017 OSCE election assessment mission report stated that independent candidates and small parties enjoyed little visibility outside of social media.
Citations:
http://www.ba-malta.org/prdetails?i d=246
Social Media during the 2013 General Election in Malta. Department of Information Malta
www.consilium.europa.eu/media/…/1 st-panel-oswald-main-slide-speaker….
Sammut,C (2007) Malta and the Media Landscape
Monitoring Media Pluralism in Europe: Country Report Malta 2018
2019 World Press Freedom Index: Reporters without Borders
Times of Malta 28/04/19 Reporters without Arguments. Mark Anthony Falzon
Malta Today 22/04/19 Reporters without Brain cells Raphael Vassallo
Romania
Romania’s media environment suffers from excessive politicization and deliberate disinformation. Ruling political parties tend to exercise undue influence on media, either through consolidated ownership, or harassment of journalists in an effort to gain more favorable coverage. For example, pro-government TV channels like Romania TV and Antena 3 were found to have shared disinformation during the major protests of 2018 and, during the 2016 election, to achieve more favorable results for the Social Democratic Party. Romania TV was also the channel behind a politically motivated smear campaign against Laura Codruța Kovesi, former head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate.

Romania is also susceptible to external media influence during elections, particularly from Russia, and lacks the mechanisms to counter the “fake news” phenomenon challenging democracies around the world. In January 2019, President Iohannis weighed in on the issue saying the spread of erroneous articles and politically targeted media campaigns can be stopped through the efforts of honest journalists.
4
Chile
Access by candidates and parties to public TV channels is regulated by law (Law No. 18,700, Ley Orgánica Constitucional sobre Votaciones Populares y Escrutinios, and Law No. 18,603, Ley Orgánica Constitucional de los Partidos Políticos). Given the high concentration of media ownership with a specific political viewpoint, candidates and parties de facto lack equal opportunity of access to a plurality of media and other means of communication. La Nación, a former daily paper owned and run by the state, stopped publishing a print edition during Sebastián Piñera’s first administration in 2010 (although the publication is still accessible online). Chile’s largest free TV channel (TVN) is state-owned, and is required by law to provide balanced and equal access to all political views and parties – a regulation which is overseen by the National Television Directorate (Consejo Nacional de Televisión, CNTV). The private media is mainly owned and/or influenced by elite associated with the Chile Vamos (until 2015, Alianza por Chile) coalition, which represented the opposition until March 2018 and has been the ruling political force since then. Although La Nación and TVN are state-owned, they must operate according to market rules, relying on advertising revenues and strong audience ratings. In general, regional candidates tend to have fewer media-access opportunities due to the strong centralization of Chile’s political and media systems.
Poland
Legally, parties and candidates have equal access to public and private media. At least for nationwide candidate lists, the election code requires public TV and radio stations to reserve time for the free broadcasting of campaign materials and for televised candidate debates. While political influence on the media has always been a problem, this has tremendously increased since the PiS came to power. Public media reporting now has a clear partisan bias and media access is more difficult for opposition parties. This was confirmed by a mission of the OSCE prior to the 2019 elections, which also observed that the government party in particular used a nationalist and homophobic rhetoric. It was also reported that high-ranking public officials, who were also candidates, occasionally made promises about public funds, and that neither they nor the media differentiated between state and party issues. Since there are private media who report more openly, other means of information exist.
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2020): Limited Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Republic of Poland, Parliamentary Elections 13 October 2019. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/446371).
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Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
2
Hungary
In the two 2019 election campaigns, media access was highly uneven, since the Orbán government ignored the existing formal duties for balanced coverage, and made extensive use of its control over the public and private media. The visibility of oppositional parties and candidates in the European Parliament elections – and even more so in the municipal elections – was very low, since the national and local public TV stations did not invite them, and did not organize any public debates. The owners of billboard advertising spaces are closely associated to Fidesz, so the opposition could not make itself heard via billboards. Even the number of smaller posters were substantially reduced, since local authorities limited or banned them, and in many cases posters were either officially removed or removed by Fidesz gangs. With a better grip on local media assets, the newly elected opposition mayors and council deputies will have the opportunity to (slightly) rebalance this inequality in the future.
1
Turkey
According to Law 3984 on the establishment of radio and television enterprises and broadcasts, “equality of opportunity shall be established among political parties and democratic groups; broadcasts shall not be biased or partial; broadcasts shall not violate the principles of election bans which are determined at election times.” However, legislation regulating presidential elections and referendums does not ensure equal access for political parties and candidates to public and private media. The Supreme Board of Elections’ (SBE) ability to penalize those who violate electoral regulations was repealed using the state of emergency decree (No. 687) issued in January 2017. The existence of this impunity mechanism facilitated several violations in the June 2018 elections that went unpenalized.

Currently, most mainstream media companies, including the state-owned radio and television company (TRT), are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government, or self-censor. Privately owned media outlets face either judicial or financial investigations, and media freedom is thus being placed at risk in an unconstitutional manner.

During the 2019 campaigns for local administration elections, the People’s Alliance (comprised of the AKP and MHP) received 61% of the airtime allotted for political parties by the state-run TRT 1 and TRT news outlets. These two channels broadcast a total of 77 hours of negative news targeting the Nation Alliance (comprised of the CHP and IYI parties) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The state-run Anadolu Agency stopped updating election results toward midnight on 31 March 2019 when the CHP İstanbul mayoral candidate began to catch his AKP rival. After not updating figures for 13 hours, Anadolu Agency finally declared CHP ahead in the İstanbul elections.

International observers stressed that candidates in the 2018 and 2019 elections did not compete on an equal basis. Notably, access to the media for political parties campaigning in the elections was unequal, which was reflected in excessive coverage of pro-government parties by government-affiliated public and private media.
Citations:
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20190529-turkey-report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

OSCE – ODIHR, Early Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Republic of Turkey 24 June 2018, ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/397046?download=true (accessed 27 October 2018)

“AA’nın seçim sonuçları “yanlışlıkla” seçimden 4 gün önce yayınlandı,” https://odatv.com/aanin-secim-sonuclari-yanlislikla-secimden-4-gun-once-yayinlandi-21061823.html (accessed 27 October 2018)

“State-Run AA Declares CHP Ahead in İstanbul Elections After 13-Hour Silence,” 1 April 2019, http://bianet.org/english/politics/207014-state-run-aa-declares-chp-ahead-in-istanbul-elections-after-13-hour-silence (accessed 1 November 2019)

Uluslararası Şeffaflık Derneği, 2019 Yerel Seçim Raporu, http://www.seffaflik.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Yerel-Se%C3%A7im-%C4%B0zleme-%C3%87al%C4%B1%C5%9Fmas%C4%B1-10.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Ö. F. Gençkaya, “Financing political parties and electoral campaigns in Turkey,” S.Sayarı, P. Ayan-Musil and Ö. Demirkol (eds), Party Politics in Turkey, Routledge: Oxon and New York, 2018.
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