European Union Election Puts UK Media in Four-Day Bind as Government Unravels

Farage Polling Station
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OLIVER JJ LANE

Strict broadcasting rules governing election day reporting are being strung out in some cases for four days while people across Europe vote in EU elections, leaving journalists in a difficult situation over reporting the slow-motion collapse of the British government happening at the same time.

In ordinary British politics, the goings on of Westminster are generally suspended during elections as all involved campaign and wait with bated breath for results. But with the British people voting for a parliament that isn’t even on British soil, and while the future of Prime Minister Theresa May teeters in the balance, two distinct political stories are developing in tandem.

Nevertheless, strict laws that govern political reportage on election day to prevent broadcasters that might have the ability to influence voters while the polls are open from doing so — mainly television and radio stations — are making for awkward reports on the political developments of the day.

This is doubly true in the case of the demise of the Prime Minister’s political career and party, which has been reflected strongly in recent opinion polls — but reporting of which are expressly forbidden on election day.

Ironically, television reports on the apparently impending end of the May era, caused by her failure to deliver Brexit, are being restricted because Britain is still in the European Union two months after the official departure date which she delayed, hence the country having to participate in an EU election it was never meant to be in.

Newspaper the Daily Mail reflected this situation Thursday when they reported:

TV news teams in Britain have been left hamstrung by a major political crisis and an election coming about on the same day… TV news teams in Britain have been left hamstrung by a major political crisis and an election coming about on the same day.

It is almost unprecedented that such a huge political crisis comes on the same day as the blackout of an election, meaning broadcasters and their lawyers are treading a completely untested legal tightrope.

As Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC explains in their own blog post on election day coverage that because the European Union elections are staggered over various nations from Thursday to Sunday, the usual election day rules are being spun out for four days:

Whilst the polls are open, it is a criminal offence to publish anything about the way in which people have voted in that election.

This means there is an additional restriction in the UK for European elections, because voting elsewhere in the EU is not concluded until Sunday evening; in the UK, it is a criminal offence to publish exit polls or opinion polls which ask people how they’ve voted (anywhere in the EU) before 22:00 BST on Sunday 26 May.

It means that information which may be available, for instance, on social media about how people are voting in other countries, cannot be included in BBC programmes or online stories.

Consequently, if the government did collapse in part or in whole because of bad polling, broadcast news organisations in the United Kingdom could well be banned from fully reporting the facts of the story until Sunday evening, lest this information unduly influence the outcome of elections in the other 27 European Union member-states.

As Breitbart London reported today, Prime Minister Theresa May could announce her resignation within days, and is meeting with Tory kingmaker Sir Graham Brady tomorrow, after the party stepped back from the brink of taking action to replace her on Wednesday.

Oliver JJ Lane is the editor of Breitbart London — Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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