The Student Publication Association is today calling on NUS conference delegates to approve a motion to safeguard fair, accurate and vital coverage to student union elections.
Motion 314 acknowledges that while student media plays a vital role in promoting and celebrating democracy at student unions, it is often damagingly silenced by union clauses curtailing proper coverage of SU elections.
The proposals asks conference to take practical steps to look at how NUS better ensure fair, unbiased coverage that both ensures accountability of candidates and better engages student audiences.
Outgoing chair of the SPA, Jem Collins, said: “Too many student unions effectively gag their student newspapers on reporting anything but propaganda during their elections, and this is incredibly damaging to democracy.
“Often these policies were probably well meant to prevent bias or unfairness, but in reality, the lack of a free press to hold candidates to account damages student democracy, leaving the electorate unengaged and uninformed.
“With proper regulation, it is not only possible, but advisable, to have a student press that is both unbiased and fair, but holds candidates to account.”
Dan Seamarks, incoming chair of the SPA, added: “Student media should always be free to report content that matters to their audience, including student union elections.
“It is the only independent body able to report on candidates and should be able to do so freely within usual ethical and legal boundaries. We back this motion and call upon both VP Union Development and Conference to vote for 314.
Help us make sure this motion passes by asking your university’s delegates how they plan to vote and sharing this statement on social media.
Read the motion in full:
Motion 314 | Media and SU Officer Elections
Submitted by: University of Bath Students’ Union
Speech for: University of Bath Students’ Union
Speech Against: Free
Summation: University of Bath Students’ Union
1. That most Students’ Unions have service level agreements (SLA’s) with their media groups that contain clauses on covering SU Officer Elections.
2. Most coverage involves either interviewing the candidates or stating the candidates manifesto points.
3. The NUS Student Media Guide stated “’Anyone can pick up a national newspaper and read about what the government is doing, but student media outlets are uniquely placed to cover what is going on locally in their institution, students’ union and local community. Student journalists should take advantage of this on topics where you can be an expert, get access to information, comments and interviews, and where you can easily speak with those affected – the students on your campus.’
Conference further believes
1. It is important that students are well informed on the candidates standing in SU Officer Elections, and media groups currently cannot give an accurate reflection on the viability of candidates manifesto policies and promises.
2. For the University of Bath, accountability of incumbent officers standing in media coverage is suspended until the end of the election period. Such practices harm both media groups in
providing true and accurate coverage, and their ability to hold the SU to account, but also harm the electorate as they are less well informed when going to vote.
3. Democracy is at the heart of Students’ Unions, and that democracy should be transparent and Media coverage helps to do that.
4. Currently, Students unions place too many restrictions on media groups during this period. This results in Media groups not wanting to do any coverage for fear of breaking these many rules, and ensures elections are primarily a popularity contest.
5. NUS, who serves as Returning Officer for many SU Elections, are perfectly placed to give better guidance to Media Groups, and allow more opinionated coverage.
1. For the VP Union Development to investigate how media groups can run better content for
Students’ Unions Officer Elections.
2. For the VP Union Development to produce guidance for Students’ Unions Media Groups in runningpieces that truly reflect candidates’ policy proposals and incumbent officer progress.
3. For the VP Union Development to work with external organisations, such as the National Student Television Association (NaSTA), Student Publication Association (SPA) and Student Radio Association (SRA) to help find effective avenues in supporting media groups in providing coverage during officer elections.