If offered, free airtime should be distributed equally.
- Member States may examine the advisability of including in their regulatory frameworks provisions whereby free airtime is made available to political parties/candidates on public broadcasting services in electoral time. Wherever such airtime is granted, this should be done in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, on the basis of transparent and objective criteria.
- Political parties and candidates should be provided access to media and equal treatment in media owned or controlled by the state so that voters can be informed of political platforms, views, and goals in a fair and unbiased manner. This covers all forms of the media, including radio, television, newspapers, and evolving forms of media such as the Internet.
- It is a good practice for the public media, at least, to provide free airtime or print space to the candidates or parties.
- The legislative framework for elections should ensure that all political parties and candidates have access to the media and equitable treatment in media owned or controlled by the state, so that the general public can be informed of the political platforms, views and goals of all parties and candidates in a fair and unbiased manner.
- The international standards and case-law make clear that governments have a negative obligation not to interfere with the imparting of information by the media or by willing speakers. While none of the international tribunals has directly examined the positive obligation of a government during a campaign period to broadcast views of political candidates on government-controlled channels, international norms discernible from a range of state practice confirm that this obligation is indeed widely-recognized.
- The legal framework should ensure equitable access for political parties and candidates on state-owned radio and television during the election campaign period by providing that all parties are guaranteed a certain amount of broadcasting time according to a defined formula. For example, 50 percent of the time could be allocated equally among all parties with the remaining 50 percent differentially allocated on the basis of the number of votes obtained by a party in the last election or in proportion to its seats in the previous legislature.
- One practice that can ensure this standard is to require provision to political parties of the right to free time on public radio and television on a permanent basis, and not only during electoral periods. A legal framework that provides that all political parties are guaranteed an established number of minutes of broadcasting per month can ensure this practice. Ideally, during electoral campaigns, political parties and candidates would be allocated additional free time in order for them to disseminate information about their candidatures. Free broadcasting time or free newspaper space during election periods should be allotted under an established formula that can be applied objectively. Objective application is ensured if the law specifies the percentage to be distributed to political parties and candidates on a n equal basis, regardless of parliamentary strength. It is also recommended that the amount of broadcast time distributed on an equal basis be sufficient to enable all political parties and candidates to complete effectively in the elections.