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Everyone's Going To Be Talking About Politics On Polling Day Except The Broadcasters

The BBC and other broadcasters will fall silent due to historical rules designed to avoid influencing the vote. The political parties will continue campaigning.

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Political parties are planning to continue their media campaign online during polling day, bypassing historical rules designed to block TV and radio coverage of campaigns on the day of the vote.

Andrew Milligan / PA Archive/Press Association Images

British election days are traditionally quiet times for political coverage, since TV and radio stations are banned by broadcasting regulations from reporting almost anything of interest about the election campaign.

But this time around the parties are taking advantage of the absence of rules on the internet to keep the media campaign going for another day.

"We expect to be very, very busy on election day," one Labour campaigner told BuzzFeed News. "People are making decisions and skimming through their smartphone when they're on the way to the polling station."

Despite the long election campaign and endless debates, the parties insist many people make their mind up on the day – and are preparing to bombard millions of people via email, Twitter, and Facebook until polls close at 10pm in an attempt to get out the vote.

In contrast, radio and TV stations have to completely curtail coverage coverage and spend the whole day reporting on stories largely unrelated to the election.

BBC rules state that polling day reporting of the election should be limited to "uncontroversial factual accounts", such as the weather:

Coverage will be restricted to uncontroversial factual accounts, such as the appearance of politicians at polling stations or the weather. Subjects which have been at issue or part of the campaign, or other controversial matters relating to the election, must not receive coverage on polling day, to ensure that nothing in the BBC's output can be construed as influencing the ballot while the polls are open.

As a result, news programmes will be forced to mainly cover stories unrelated to the election, ignoring the political debates that have dominated airwaves for months. In addition, broadcast journalists will have to restrict what they tweet, even on personal accounts.

In the past this forced political parties to drop the media war and focus on getting out their voters at a local level.

Labour, like the other parties, will focus in this election on convincing people to look away from their screens and head down to vote – while also encouraging voters to tell their friends and family that they are backing Labour.

Another side effect of the rules, the major parties say, is that they see substantial spikes in web traffic on polling days. According to a Liberal Democrat campaigner, the number of visitors to the party's website spiked massively on the day of the 2014 European Parliament election: "People were googling the parties on the day of the vote and making up their minds."

News websites are exempt from broadcast regulations on election day but have to ensure they don't indicate which way people are voting.

Throughout Thursday millions of Britons will be talking about politics online, trying to find out information on the campaigns, and declaring how they voted – but broadcasters will be unable to cover any of it.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at

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