During the recent Ontario election, and the Federal election in May, the media focused almost exclusively on the major parties – the Conservatives, Liberals, NDPs and Green party. Some in the Libertarian community wonder why we get so little attention, which has led me to wonder what responsibility the media has during an election campaign to report on smaller parties, their platforms and issues.
My initial thought was that media should report on what their audience wants to know about. Most people are interested in the big parties, and frame their political choice in terms of which of those parties is best from their perspective; therefore, the media should focus on those parties and their platforms.
However, after some further consideration – and discussions with my non-political family and friends – I realized something. People expect the media to provide a complete picture of the political choices available to them. For many people, the media is their only source of information on the election. They don’t know who all their choices are, and want an easy place to find out who is running and what they stand for. When the media only reports on three or four parties, then people assume that those are the only choices.
So the short answer is yes – the media does have a responsibility to provide better coverage of the small parties. The responsibility is not to the representatives of those parties – it’s to their customers, who depend on the media to inform them about the election and who is running. This would undoubtedly benefit the Libertarian party and the other small parties, but also people with little interest in following politics, and ultimately it would improve democracy for everyone. Democracy depends on the free exchange of information, and the right of individuals to make the best choice possible when voting for the people who will decide their future.