On last night’s episode of Gruen Nation, the ABC’s election spin-off of its popular weekly program The Gruen Transfer, Chairman and Managing Director of George Patterson’s Y&R Russel Howcroft made the bold claim that:
Political advertising subsidises democracy.
The inference is that mainstream media significantly benefits from elections, thanks to the vast amounts of campaign funding dedicated to advertising parties and causes, and that this influx of money provides the resources to provide a high quality of election coverage.
Perhaps it’s not the Democrats, after all, who are ‘keeping the bastards honest’. (Remember them?) But, rather, it’s the parties themselves that funding their own scrutiny.
Within a heartbeat of Howcroft’s comments, co-panellist and CEO of Leo Burnett, Sydney, Todd Sampson voiced his disagreement, vehemently making the argument that treating politicians like a brand can only undermine democracy.
What do you think? Has this election been hijacked by focus groups and smear campaigns? Could the parties have taken a different approach? What do Howcroft’s comments insinuate about the future of media?