Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Working with the media

The media plays an important role in providing information to voters on the election and it is important for your communications with media outlets and representatives to be well-planned and managed in order to maintain public confidence that the election is being well-run. 

To achieve this effectively, there should be a clear process in place for communications relating to the poll in each constituency to be followed by you and, in the case of cross-boundary constituencies, the relevant staff at the other authority, and your respective communications team(s) to respond to any issues that arise.

Your arrangements for working with the media should include:

  • processes for dealing with general media enquiries
  • strategies for dealing with both proactive communication and media liaison in relation to specific events such as the counting of votes and result declaration
  • plans for reactive handling of any issues that arise in relation to the election, for example allegations of electoral fraud

Media attendance at the count

When developing your plan for how you will support media attendance at the count you should consider:

  • contacting principal broadcast organisations in advance and outlining the press facilities available 
  • providing an opportunity for media representatives to inspect the verification and count venue to see what space and facilities are available, to give them the opportunity to raise any issues or technical requirements with you so you can incorporate these into your planning for venue layout 
  • discussing arrangements for the declaration of results 
  • arranging for sound systems to be used for the announcements and for any live feeds
  • making accreditation arrangements for journalists, technicians and photographers attending and providing media passes
  • ensuring that there is a nominated media spokesperson in place for the count, and that everyone is aware who this is and that all media questions should be directed to that person
  • making sure that the media are aware of any restricted areas and procedures e.g. that camera operators are aware they must not overview sensitive information (such as close-ups of ballot papers) or obstruct count staff
  • ensuring that the council’s public relations team are present to deal with media enquiries. You should make sure that they know who to approach if they are asked any technical electoral questions
  • explaining the processes to be followed and the expected finish and declaration times for each poll
  • putting steps in place to enable you to provide media representatives with a written copy of the results at the time the announcement is made 

In order to assist you and your communications team further with media liaison at the count, we have developed some tips for managing the media at the count tips for managing the media at the count.

Last updated: 19 December 2023