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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 06:22 GMT 07:22 UK
US-style ads could tackle turnout
Anthony Eden and interviewer
Televised party political broadcasts started in 1951
Short American-style election adverts could be coming to the UK as part of the battle against voter apathy, according to reports.

Party political broadcasts, blamed for exacerbating chronic voter apathy at the last general election, could be scrapped.

The Electoral Commission, which oversees elections, is currently conducting a review of party political broadcasting and will report next year.

Voter turnout in the US is even lower than it was here in June

Gerald Kaufman MP
Among the proposals being considered are US-style 30-second adverts, according to Friday's Daily Telegraph.

A Mori poll found the number of voters who saw any of the party election broadcasts at the last election had fallen to 55%, compared with 73% in 1997.

Sam Younger, chairman of the commission, was reported as saying that he was keen to find ways to make watching party election broadcasts "more attractive to viewers".

Voter insult

But the proposal to abolish longer broadcasts was greeted with scepticism by some MPs.

Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, told the newspaper the adverts would be an insult to voters.

"The 30-second political commercial has been the standard in America for years, yet voter turnout there is even lower than it was here in June."

Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet, said the idea represented the triumph of "spin and presentation over political substance".

No position

"The advantage of having longer party political broadcasts is that it forces politicians to offer some information about the issues and what they intend to do," added Mr Gale.

A Labour Party spokesman said the party would be prepared to "look at a number of options".

"The Labour Party does not have an official position on this but we will be looking at the terms of reference for the review," he said.

Since becoming a mainstay of election campaigning in the 1950s, broadcasts have shrunk from 10-minute epics, with most now rarely exceeding the two minutes 40 second minimum length.

In America, short election adverts are often criticised for adopting shock tactics and over-simplifying issues in an effort to catch the attention of voters with short attention spans.

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