Monday 9 June 2014

Value for Money: election broadcasting edition

New Zealand subsidises party political advertising during the election campaign. Parliament allocates funding to the Electoral Commission for the Broadcasting Allocation, which funds short political broadcasts. It appears that Parliament allocates a fixed amount of funding, which the Electoral Commission then divvies up amongst the various parties in accordance with their support.

I generally oppose the Broadcasting Allocation. Mechanisms like this always need to tread a careful line between overly advantaging incumbents and providing too-generous of taxpayer support to fringe movements opposed by most voters. So National and Labour get about two-thirds of the monetary allocation and just under half of the available minutes.

But, if we're going to have this kind of thing, I can think of no better use of the money than its being provided to The Civilian Party. Recall that The Civilian Party is something of a protest movement promising free ice cream and llamas. The New Zealand Taxpayers Union, which I generally support, has opposed this use of government funding. But where the funding comes out of a fixed pot, it's only at the expense of the other parties: were The Civilian Party's allocation removed, the other parties' allocations would be increased.

I'm willing to bet that viewers will receive far more utils from the two minutes of Civilian Party advertising than they will from that of any other party. Funding reallocations away from The Civilian Party will reduce total national utility. Redirecting funds away from the other parties and towards The Civilian Party, on the other hand, seems a fine idea. 

I think the NZTU got this one wrong. 

In the alternative, I humbly submit my request to get to be the one who decides which parties are really jokes in 2014. The list isn't short.

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