Experts say the outdated legislation that bans on radio and television ads for the 48 hours before election day should be expanded to cover social media and websites – or scrapped.
“It’s got to be one or the other but you can’t ban it on television and radio but have free, complete reign over the preferred communications channel in Australia, which is online,” University of Southern Queensland lecturer Matt Grant told AAP on Wednesday.
And ANU political marketing expert Andrew Hughes says if he had his way, the ban would be a week long and extend to all forms of media.
“That also stops any misinformation or fake news campaigns quite effectively because then people would know that it’s not being put out by a party, they would know the blackout is in place,” he told AAP.
Labor is using the advertising blackout as a catalyst to solicit donations, telling supporters in an email on Wednesday that “it doesn’t mean we need to stop getting our message out” and “we need to lock in our digital advertising spend”.
The sheer number of political ads across all platforms has attracted much attention this election cycle, driven by Clive Palmer spending tens of millions of dollars promoting his United Australia Party with bright yellow pages in newspapers, ads on both YouTube and broadcast television, as well as banners on media websites.
Hughes says it’s unsurprising people are feeling swamped.
“You can actually carpet bomb more on social media than traditional media,” he said.
“Yes, a lot of people will only make their mind up on the day, but then on the other hand if you throw too much information at people they will simply switch off and they won’t take any of it in.”
Grant believes there’s a direct connection between the huge volume of advertising and the record take-up of early voting, with some 4.5 million Australians casting their ballots at prepoll or via post.
“People are simply wanting to have their vote and to disengage from the campaign,” he said.
“Personally, that’s what I did. I don’t pay attention to the ads any more because it is at that saturation level.”
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