Wilson -v- Independent Broadcasting Authority; OHCS 1979

References: [1979] SC 351 OH, [1979] SLT 279
Coram: Lord Ross
In the lead up to the Scottish referendum on Devolution, the Authority required the broadcasters to carry party political broadcasts for each of the four main parties. Three parties favoured voting yes in the referendum, and the authority was injuncted by those opposing the Yes campaign.
Held: The injunction was set aside. The Act required the Authority to maintain a balance of approximately for each case. The court considered how the broadcasting media should achieve balance during elections.
Lord Ross said: ‘I see no reason in principle why an individual should not sue in order to prevent a breach by a public body of a duty owed by that public body to the public. It may well be that the Lord Advocate could be a petitioner if the interests of the public as a whole were affected…, but I see no reason why an individual should not sue provided always that the individual can qualify an interest.
Having considered the petitioners’ averments, I am of the opinion that the petitioners have averred sufficient interest.
(1) They are voters and the Referendum gives them the choice to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
(2) They belong to an organisation or group who apparently believe that the question should be answered ‘No’.
(3) It is implicit in the name of the organisation or group that the petitioners wish to persuade other voters to vote ‘No’.
It is plain from the petition and the answers that the petitioners and the political parties believe that the programmes are likely to be influential upon the electorate in Scotland, and if that is so, the petitioners have an interest to see that the respondents do not act in breach of any statutory duties in relation to such programmes.’
Statutes: Broadcasting Act 1990
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