In order to strengthen the political-institutional structure of a country, in the “information society“, equal access must be guaranteed to all the actors involved in the spaces of public debate. Extending pluralism as a guarantee of balance in the electoral game, “openness to different political tendencies” (l.103/1975), as prescribed by the Fairness Doctrine, is fundamental for regulating democratic competition. In the US, the informative role of “traditional media”, in particular television, influences voting orientation, affecting the visibility of candidates and issues in the phase of approaching the polls. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), protecting the principle of equal time, sets limits to the television appearances of candidates. By blocking possible lobbying pressures on the spot market and by regulating the funding mechanism of electoral campaigns, FCC operates in the name of the principle of transparency, which is functional to a correct decision-making process. In the UK, Ofcom (independent communication authority) monitors compliance with the Communication act (2003) which, based on the principle of impartiality, regulates media spaces reserved for the political debate. Correctness, balance and impartiality are required for television and radio programs of political information which have to allocate a fair free space to the representatives of the major parties and, proportionate to the number of nominations presented, for minor political groups. Only BBC enjoys independent regulation.
A Eurobarometer survey (2016) reportes increasing concerns among European citizens about the independence of media agents: more than half of respondents (57%) do not consider the national media to be free of political or commercial pressures, while, among voters active on the Web, three out of four feel a hatred around the political debate on social networks that leads, about half of the users (48%), not to participate in initiatives born on Internet.
“Pluralism is the foundation of democracy“, French Constitutional Council reiterates: in the transalpine country, CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) is responsible for complying with the Code electoral (l.55/ 1990) and the law on the freedom of information (1067/1986). Among the provisions of the code, the prohibition, in the three months preceding the first day of the month in which the scrutiny will take place and until the end of its execution, of electoral advertising in press and audiovisual media; moreover, political communications must not be propagandistic, informing voters in a neutral way, as envisaged for the websites throughout the electoral campaign. CSA supervises the distribution of free time and space, granted by public and private broadcasters to candidates for the Presidency of the Republic, to the National Assembly and to the European Parliament, in respect of equal treatment.
In recent years, social networks and web platforms have changed the morphology of electoral campaigns. However, the broadening of the audience of political actors and information channels on the Internet has not reduced the participatory gap between voter-users, mistrusted by political institutions and media. Knowledgeable citizens, who have access to a plural public sphere – according to Ofcom, British communications authority -, contribute to the proper functioning of democratic society.
In Germany, the members of the competing parties have equal access to political information programs, based on their electoral representativeness (some requirements are: year of foundation, number of members, territorial rooting), also extended to the broadcasting of electoral spots (self-managed by political groups, lasting no more than two and a half minutes and separated from commercial advertisements). Political competition, today articulated on several participatory platforms, cannot disregard certain rules, respecting pluralism and transparency, to protect the integrity of the democratic process.
Article published on eunews.it