Switch-off for party broadcasts

Click to follow
The Independent Online


Soundbite politics, which have lowered dramatically voters' boredom threshold, are threatening the survival of Party Political Broadcasts on television.

An idea going the rounds in the Labour Party, supported by media chiefs from the other two main parties, is for shorter, sharper PPBs lasting no more than 2.5 minutes because they believe they will have a better chance of keeping their audience.

In an increasingly media-literate world, PPBs have suffered by comparison with more slick and better produced adverts. As well as being punchier, shorter PPBs would allow parties to concentrate resources and produce more polished material that would hold viewers' attention better.

Labour's suggestion is to halve the length of the normal five-minute broadcasts, but to screen them twice as often. The initiative is due to be discussed later this autumn when politicians and broadcasters meet to settle next year's allocation of PPBs.

Over the years the average length of the broadcasts has been cut from 10 minutes, although there have been exceptions - notably "Kinnock", the ground-breaking broadcast by Hugh Hudson during the 1987 General Election

The prospect of getting the message across has produced a rare display of cross-party unity by the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour.

"People are accustomed now to absorbing information in short, densely packed bursts. If a political point can't be made in five minutes or less we question its validity," said a Labour Party spokeswoman.

The Conservatives, who have virtually ceased making PPBs because they are too expensive, also welcomed the idea.

"We will certainly be open to talking about it. You don't always need a long slot, it depends entirely on what you are trying to do with a broadcast," commented Hugh Colver, the Conservatives' Director of Communications.

The Liberal Democrats said they, too,would "look at the proposal with an open mind".

Unlike the United States, Britain has a ban on political advertising, but the parties insist they do not want to see it lifted. That could mean the parties would be subject to the checks by the Advertising Standards Authority on the honesty of their claims.