Why we shouldn’t ban political ads on TV

by Stephen Tall on August 31, 2012

I was on the panel for Voice of Russia’s debate yesterday on whether political advertising on TV in the UK should continue to be banned. The debate’s been re-triggered following a legal challenge from Animal Defenders International, an animal rights group challenging a block on its ‘My Mate’s a Primate’ campaign featuring Alexei Sayle reporting on the abuse of performing apes.

You can listen to the debate here:

And if you just want to know my view in four sentences…

I believe in free expression and can see absolutely no justification for continuing to ban political advertising on television. I also believe in level playing fields in the market-place, though, and so any lifting on the ban would have to go hand-in-hand with a cap on the amount political parties/groups can spend pushing their point of view. As I’ve argued before, the existing cap on spending is already too high, creating very real barriers for entry for new parties. Lifting the ban while leaving party funding unreformed will simply allow those parties/groups with the deepest pockets to entrench further their market dominance.