Why we should have political ads on television.

televisionIn the US, political ads have been accused of dumbing down politics, turning every election into a nasty barrage of attack ads trying to besmirch the other guy.  Yet I think that if we were to scrap party politicals, and instead allocate each party a certain amount of regular ad time for ads to be run during prime time television viewing, we would actually improve the level of debate in the country.

Now, before people get all excited, let me stress that I’m not advocating the US model of letting candidates or parties or NGOs buy ad time. I’m against that. A party’s coffers should not be the determining factor to television access. But if parties were instead allowed to run 30/45 second ads during prime time, what would be the effect?

Given the size of our constituencies, it would be a waste of resources for the larger parties to run candidate ads, instead running ads outlining their unique selling points, or attacking the other parties. What’s wrong with that? For the first time, parties would have to spend serious effort determining, in a tight message, what they are actually for, as opposed to relying entirely on the local “franchise” good-for-the-local-area candidate.

There are some who say that it will make no difference, that it’s the same as a party political, but it’s not. PPs are practically quarantined, and the public are almost warned about them before they start, whereas regular advertising is the wallpaper of modern life. Surely, if everything from banking services to Coke is advertised, then why not opposing options for government? This is the way we live our life.

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