Australians face a wave of advertisements during the voting period of the same-sex marriage poll, with experts saying a minimum of $60 million would need to be spent by the parties to mount effective campaigns.
Survey forms will be sent out in early September and will be due back into the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on November 7, with the ABS committing to publishing the results on November 15.
Over that period, Australian TV screens are likely to be bombarded with advertising from the "yes" and the "no" sides.
The networks BuzzFeed News have spoken to say they will be accepting ads from all sides of the debate over the next few months, provided they meet the TV code of practice, and the Australian Association of National Advertisers code of ethics about not vilifying people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.
"We will accept advertising from all parties," a spokesperson for Nine told BuzzFeed news in a statement. "They will be required to comply with the FreeTV industry Code of Practice and related codes."
"As a broadcaster we will offer the opportunity for both sides to be heard – subject to the content meeting the usual requirements relating to classification, vilification and political matter," a Network Ten spokesperson said.
“As with all advertising, the decision as to what is put to air ultimately rests with the broadcaster and we would ask advertisers to engage in a respectful debate."
One case of alleged "censorship" that opponents of same-sex marriage often highlight is that in 2015 a group headed up by a Toowoomba doctor, Dr David van Gend, attempted to get SBS to run an anti-marriage equality ad during the middle of the network's broadcast of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
SBS's reason for declining to air the ad was more to do with the fact that the organisation only wanted the ad aired in that slot in conflict with the Mardi Gras broadcast, but the refusal has still led to claims of censorship from opponents of marriage equality.
A spokesperson for SBS has said that the broadcaster would consider running ads during the same-sex marriage poll, provided it met the guidelines. SBS boss Michael Ebeid has been criticised in recent months by Liberal senator Eric Abetz for his personal support for marriage equality, and how that is reflected in the government-owned broadcaster's stance on the issue.
Foxtel also found itself in hot water a couple of years ago when it was airing anti-marriage equality ads from the then new group Marriage Alliance. Foxtel stood by airing the ads, but eventually removed them from the pay TV network's schedule. Foxtel frequently airs ads from Australian Marriage Equality across its channels.
A spokesperson for Foxtel told BuzzFeed News that while the company reserves the right to refuse ads that are offensive and misleading, it would air ads for both sides.
"Foxtel is a strong corporate supporter of marriage equality. We believe that an inclusive society that treats all people equally will be a more successful society and that benefits everyone, including businesses like ours.
"However, we recognise that in a democracy, especially where citizens are being asked to vote, it is important that all legitimate points of view are aired. Therefore, we will be willing to run advertisements for both the yes and no cases."
Those on the "no" side of the argument are warning that they should be given as much air time as the "yes" side from broadcasters during the survey period.
"We've see a lot of censorship of those arguing against the Marriage Act," Liberal senator Zed Seselja said on Sky News on Thursday.
"Media proprietors have a responsibility, I think, to be fair, to not to campaign for one side. Private media proprietors of course can campaign for one side or the other.
"Those arguing against change do have a lot of things stacked against them. Virtually every media outlet is campaigning for change."
Fairfax reported on Friday that the government will attempt to get Labor and Greens support for legislation to enforce rules around the debate. Both Labor and the Greens yesterday committed to supporting the "yes" campaign should the High Court challenge of the postal poll be unsuccessful.
A spokesperson for Seven did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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