Apparently the Australian Christian Lobby are trying to convince George Brandis that TV stations should be forced to air ads opposing marriage equality in the lead up to a plebiscite. Sigh. Really?
But. It's actually an interesting legal question, and one we've been asked before by other lobby groups. Can you force a TV station to air your political ad?
If it's election time, then there are broadcasting licence rules requiring that TV stations give all political parties contesting the election a reasonable opportunity to broadcast their election material.
But otherwise, if it's not election time, if you're not a political party contesting an election, and your content isn't `election matter' e.g, soliciting votes at an election or advocating a party contesting an election or its policies, then the answer is no.
That means that lobby groups like the ACL, who are not political parties, can never force TV stations to air their political ads. Even political parties only get the benefit of these rules for about a month before an election.
A plebiscite is not an election. That means that under the current rules, the TV stations would have no obligation to air any ads relating to it regardless of their source.
The ACL would have to get new rules enacted in relation to the plebiscite. It would likely require amendments to the licensing provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act as well as the legislation enabling the plebiscite. Given the inevitable controversy around any plebiscite legislation, we're betting this one goes straight in the too hard basket.
Sorrynotsorry, ACL. Back to trolling gay parents on social media, hey.