Media reporting during Victorian council elections

Councillor candidates often rely on local media to promote their suitability for office and publish electoral advertisement in the lead-up to council elections.

The Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, as the dedicated integrity agency for local government in Victoria, has a key role during the electoral period in monitoring the conduct of councils and candidates and investigating electoral complaints to ensure fair and transparent elections.

Publication of electoral material during the 2016 Victorian council elections is being closely monitored by the Inspectorate to ensure candidates and the media do not breach electoral provisions of the Local Government Act 1989. We want to ensure the media is aware of the relevant sections of the Act and our staff can offer advice and support to any media outlets with relevant concerns.

The Act states that the proprietor of a newspaper must ensure the word “advertisement” is printed as a headline in letters not smaller than 10 point on each article or paragraph in the proprietor’s newspaper containing electoral matter, which is or has been paid for or for which any reward or promise of compensation is, or is to be paid.

In addition the Act prohibits a person from printing, publishing or distributing a newspaper, circular or pamphlet containing an article, report, letter or other matter containing electoral matter unless the author’s name and address are set out at the end of the article, report, letter or other material.

Three media outlets were investigated for breaches of the Act during the 2012 elections and, given the minor nature of the offences, were given formal warnings. Failure to comply with electoral provisions is an offence under the Act and can lead to prosecution in the Magistrates Court, conviction and substantial fines.

Attached for your reference are the relevant provisions of the Act which define electoral matter and relate to the publication of election material.

Should you require any clarification on these provisions or if you would like any information about the Inspectorate’s role in local government matters, please do not hesitate to contact our office on 1800 469 359 or by email media.comms@lgici.vic.gov.au

Further information about our functions is also available on our website www.lgici.vic.gov.au