Extra Regulations Needed for Political Advertising in Georgia
According to the Georgian legislation, when broadcasting a political/pre-election advertisement no later than 60 days before elections, television shall follow the requirements enshrined in the Election code of Georgia and Code of Conduct of Broadcasters. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure equal access to advertising for political parties thus giving full information to voters. However, as practice demonstrated, in most of the cases pre-election campaign starts way earlier and political advertising broadcasted by television earlier than 60 days before elections stays without proper regulations.
Political/pre-election advertisement - advertisement broadcasted by mass media aimed at promoting/hindering electing of an electoral subject, where the electoral subject and/or its sequence number are displayed and which contains the signs of election campaign or appeals for or against the issue put forward for referendum/plebiscite.
Let us shortly describe main legal requirements, which shall be followed by the broadcasters and authors of advertising no later than 60 days before elections:
Broadcasters shall weekly submit the following information to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC): time intervals and schedules allotted for political advertising, tariffs and services already provided;
When broadcasting a political/pre-election advertisement, the screen corner shall display the inscription ‘paid political advertising’ or ‘free political advertising’. Such advertisements shall have be accompanied with sign language interpretation;
Tariffs of paid political ads shall be the same for all electoral subjects.
Airtime allotted for paid political ads by any TV or radio broadcaster during one day may not exceed 15% of its total daily broadcasting time and none of electoral subjects shall be granted more than one-third of this time.
Broadcasters shall give some amount of free advertising airtime to qualified electoral subjects.
As it was mentioned above, listed obligations covers the period of time when 60 or less days are left before elections. Therefore, before that period political advertising regulation does not differ from general commercial advertising. Since political subjects usually start their campaign, including advertising, way earlier in Georgia lack of adequate regulations can be problematic. For instance, advertisements of United National Movement are being broadcasted on Rustavi 2 since November 2015. Moreover, advertisements of Alliance of Patriots of Georgia are also being broadcasted on TV Obieqtivi. It is reasonable to presume that number of such type of TV advertising will increase in future, but they will be out of proper regulation at least till August 1 (if the President of Georgia sets the date – October 1 for the parliamentary elections).
It means that before August 1, advertising videos, containing political content will have no indication about its political character, TV companies advertising tariffs will be non-transparent, and it might even be different for various political parties. This will negatively affect political competitiveness and voters’ opportunity to be properly informed about the election campaign.
Accordingly, from our point of view, some regulations stipulated in Election Code of Georgia, shall be activated not only 60 days earlier before elections, but work during other periods of time. Particularly:
Broadcasters should submit information about paid political ad tariffs, and services already provided to the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC). This also includes publishing of this information on TV Company’s web page in accordance to the Code of Conduct of Broadcasters.
Tariffs of paid political ads during non-election period should also be the same for all political parties and other persons having declared election purposes.
When broadcasting a political advertisement, the screen corner should display the inscription ‘paid political advertising’ or ‘free political advertising’. Such advertisements should have be accompanied with sign language interpretation.