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Party Political Broadcasts

If you had to get your manifesto across to the people, how would you do it? Let's face it, people are unlikely to flood your headquarters with letters and phone calls requesting copies to read. So, what do you do? How do you get people to listen to what you have to say?

Go to their house and speak to them directly. They might not answer the door, so turn up uninvited before EastEnders or Coronation Street starts. Not at their door, on the telly! They don't want to miss the start of their favourite soap, so they're bound to watch. Party political broadcasts are powerful. You get a prime slot so you need to make sure you use it well.

Rules, rules, rules

There are rules around party political broadcasts. If there weren't, we'd be swamped with them! All the major parties are allowed to have party political broadcasts so that the campaign is fair and voters get a good idea of the party choices.

Who gets to go on air?

The major parties, which are considered to be Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and, in Scotland and Wales, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Major parties in Northern Ireland are the Democratic Unionists, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionist. Major parties are given a series of broadcast slots. Other parties can also have broadcasts as long as they are standing for at least one–sixth of all the seats available.

What about the rest?

Each party chooses how long its broadcast is. The shortest time a party can have is 2 minutes and 40 seconds and the longest is 4 minutes and 40 seconds. You may think that all the parties would pick the longest time but this isn't necessarily effective. Short and snappy quite often works best.

The major parties have a lot more money to spend than the smaller parties and quite often employ big advertising companies to ensure they are getting their message across well. The more money you spend, the slicker your presentation. Broadcasts by the major parties have to take place at peak time: between 6pm and 10.30pm. This makes sure that they all have a good chance of being seen by a large audience.

Party political broadcast on television

Key Points

  • Each of the main parties is allowed to have party political broadcasts.
  • There are rules about their length and when they can be shown.
  • Party political broadcasts show the voters what each party will do if elected – they are like adverts.
  • Smaller parties can also show party political broadcasts as long as they are standing for one sixth of all the seats available.

Interesting Facts

  • During the 1997 campaign, 70% of people watched party political broadcasts. By the 2001 election this fell to 50%.
  • The first party political broadcasts were aired on 15 October 1951. Each of the three main parties was allowed 15 minutes.

Big Question

  • The importance of party political broadcasts means that politicians can only be successful if they look good on television. Do you agree?