Tuesday 15 May 2012

A useful lottery

It is rational for voters to know next to nothing about parties' election platforms. But collective voter ignorance has policy costs.

The National Business Review reports that TV1 wants to be rid of its obligation to broadcast pre-election political statements:
The broadcaster says the opening and closing addresses for the 2011 general election attracted significantly lower ratings than the corresponding nights a year earlier, with total audience across the three nights an average 20% lower.
"This places TVNZ at a serious commercial disadvantage to its competitors," TVNZ general counsel Brent McAnulty said in a written submission to Parliament's justice and electoral select committee, which is holding an inquiry into the 2011 general election.
"As a wholly commercial operator, the Part 6 obligations (of the Broadcasting Act) are no longer appropriate, and do not reflect a level playing field," he said.
You can mandate that TVNZ broadcast the platforms but you can't mandate that people watch it. That's why ad revenue goes south during the addresses. Solution? Have a lotto on the Elections NZ website. Successfully answer skill-testing questions based on each night's addresses and you've a chance at fabulous prizes. We probably have to pay people to have them learn anything about the parties amongst which they're choosing; a lotto isn't a bad way of doing it. Do it right and TV1 won't be mad about hosting the ads either.


  1. This seems like a good idea, if you could develop questions that were meaningful and wouldn't be perceived as partisan by either side.

    You could just ask what the leaders' policies are, but actually knowing what policies are doesn't do much to circumvent voter ignorance. Surely the most problematic aspect of voter ignorance is their perception of the likely effect of policies, and any questions on that would likely appear partisan.

    Perhaps the leaders could be invited to submit 10 questions each. But then could the answers be objective?

    1. Have the Electoral Commission write the quizzes after they watch the statements.

      Are unbiased questions any harder a problem than unbiased moderators during debates?

      I'm not sure I'd trust questions submitted by parties....