Elections 2021: How the BBC reports polling day

By Ric Bailey
BBC chief adviser, politics

Published
image captionOnline coverage of election night will come from the BBC newsroom in central London

The BBC, like other broadcasters, is not allowed to report details of campaigning or election issues while the polls are open on Thursday for elections in Scotland, Wales and England.

The BBC is required by electoral law to adopt a code of practice, ensuring fairness between candidates and that is particularly important on polling day.

The code of practice is contained in more detailed election guidelines which are written and published for each election, and they include guidance about polling day.

On polling day, the BBC does not report on any of the election campaigns from 00:30 BST until polls close at 22:00 BST on TV, radio or bbc.co.uk, or on social media and other channels.

However, online sites do not have to remove archived reports, including, for instance, programmes on iPlayer. The lists of candidates and the guide to parties' policies remain available online during polling day.

Coverage of what is happening on the day is usually restricted to uncontroversial factual accounts, such as the appearance of politicians at polling stations, or the weather.

It tends to focus on giving information which will help voters with the process of going to polling stations.

Subjects which have been at issue or part of the campaign - or other controversial matters relating to the election - must not be covered on polling day itself; it's important that the BBC's output cannot be seen to be directly influencing the ballot while the polls are open.

However, that does not mean that other political events and stories not directly connected to the elections, cannot be covered.

No opinion poll on any issue relating to politics or the election can be published until after the polls have closed.

While the polls are open, it is a criminal offence to publish anything about the way in which people have voted in that election.

From 22:00 BST normal reporting of the election resumes.

A modern browser with JavaScript and a stable internet connection is required to view this interactive. More information about these elections

Note: This lookup covers national elections in Scotland and Wales, the Hartlepool by-election, as well as council and mayoral elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales. There may be parish council elections or council by-elections where you are. Check your local council website for full details. Last updated: May 11, 2021, 12:35 GMT