Free-to-air networks will still show election advertising on television during the so-called blackout period this week by allowing paid political campaigns to be watched through their digital catch-up apps or on smart TVs.
A legally-enforced blackout period will be in place from 12am on Thursday until the polls close on Saturday at 6pm to limit voters from making rash choices based on an advertisement. The rules were also created to curb political parties from making untested claims when there isn't enough time for scrutiny.
But while these rules apply to broadcast media, including the major TV companies and radio licence holders, the law doesn't apply to streaming applications like Seven West Media's 7plus, Nine Entertainment Co's 9Now and Network Ten's 10play.
Free-to-air television sources have confirmed that Seven, Nine and Ten will accept political advertising on their digital platforms up until voting closes on Saturday, with most expecting a spend from all the major parties.
Recent advancements in technology and Australians increasingly choosing to stream video content means election advertising can now be watched on smart and connected televisions in millions of homes up until the polls close.
Deloitte's 2018 media consumer survey found 52 per cent of households had a smart TV and 28 per cent had a streaming media box connecting them to applications such as Netflix and free-to-air catch-up apps through their television. This allows viewers to switch from broadcast television to streamed content with the click of a remote control button.
A Nine spokesman said the broadcaster "has and will continue to book political ads for our digital platforms right up and until the election". Nine is the owner of this masthead.
"This demonstrates how outdated the broadcast blackout period is and that it has to be changed in order to level the playing field for broadcast media," he said.
Television networks have been pushing for a change in the blackout laws that have been in place for more than 20 years, arguing the rules do not make sense in the digital era particularly as they do not limit election advertising in print, on billboards or for other online media like Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube.
Data from April shows digital campaigns on social media has surged this election but millions of dollars has been spent on traditional media by political groups in the form of television, radio and print advertisements.
Seven and Ten declined to comment.
- SMH/The Age