3rd October 2019, 14:26
GBC’s decision to not include Independent Candidates on Electoral Campaign Debates is based on the Code on Objectivity, Impartiality, Accuracy and Undue Prominence issued by the broadcasting regulator, the GRA.
The Corporation is satisfied that it has provided the Independents with plenty of airtime, on television and radio news bulletins, as well as on the special Election 2019 programming which we feel is adequate for the level of support they enjoy in the public domain, as mandated by the GRA Code. GBC understands that the Independent Candidates may not be pleased with the level of television and radio exposure assigned to them, but the Corporation must fulfil its functions on what it editorially feels is right and fair.
The matter is now in the hands of the Regulator to determine whether or not participation in debates should be extended to Independent Candidates. In the Corporation’s opinion, moving to allow the Independents to take part in Election Campaign television and radio debates on an equal footing with parties that are able to form a Government, would create a scenario that could have serious repercussions.
Such a decision would mean that anyone who is able to spend £150 to pay for an election deposit would in future guarantee Independents the right to take part in election debates with no filter. This would allow individuals with no previous political experience, acumen, or public support, to effectively ‘buy’ their way into GBC’s election programming. GBC considers this would be wrong and dangerous, while undermining the public service broadcaster’s editorial independence.
Furthermore, it would allow political parties in future to possibly field their own ‘Independent’ candidates in addition to the ten candidates making up their slate, who would then be guaranteed a place on a debate, meaning there could potentially be a situation when there could be more than one candidate defending a particular set of policies, against other parties with only one voice in the same programme. This would destroy the values of even and fair coverage within election programming, which GBC has worked so hard to sustain over the years.
Notwithstanding the Corporation’s position on participation in debates, GBC is also keen to provide Independent Candidates with the maximum level of exposure possible. For this reason, both Independents are entitled to participation in ‘Your Questions’ on Radio Gibraltar, when listeners are able to submit questions for them to answer, and also have an extended twenty- minute interview each within ‘The Independents’ programme on GBC Television. This is in addition to coverage of their manifesto launches and hustings within news bulletins, as well as their statutory Electoral Broadcasts on both television and radio.