NMA: Newspaper Editorial Must Remain Exempt from Election Expenses Rules

The News Media Association has said that newspapers must remain exempt from the election expenses regime which regulates third party campaigning.

Controversial changes were made by the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 (the 2014 Act) to strengthen the system for regulating the campaigning activities of third parties primarily by lowering the amount they could spend, and increasing the activities that count towards that spending limit.

A review was set up under the 2014 Act, headed by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, assisted by a team from the Cabinet Office, and specialist advisers The review is independent of Government and all political parties, and is committed to producing evidence-based recommendations.

Responding to Third Party Campaigning Review, the NMA said it has no objection to reform that might liberalise the aspects of the election expenses regime but would “strongly oppose” any extension that threatened the editorial exemption applicable to the media, including newspapers.

In the submission, NMA legal policy and regulatory affairs advisor Lucy Gill writes: “The exemption recognises press freedom and the role that newspapers play in the democratic process. During election periods, It is vital that newspapers remain free to adopt their own editorial stance upon any issues which might be relevant to an election, whether local, regional, national or international.

“They must also be able to report, investigate, analyse and comment upon any such matter, freely and without fear of prosecution. The press must also remain free through its editorial to provide forums for debate and to provoke, invite, reflect and publish in any form the concerns of and view of their readers, audiences or communities, as individuals, or as whole during the relevant periods.

“It is therefore important that the Review does not result in any measure that might directly or indirectly, deliberately or inadvertently result in any restrictions upon the editorial exemption. The role of the free press and the public’s ability to follow and engage in the political process would be badly undermined.”