Sir David Butler has been a pioneer of election broadcasting over the last seventy years, across three countries.
Butler acted as offscreen adviser and onscreen analyst on the BBC's very first televised British election night in 1950. He continued to work on the BBC's general election night coverage until 1979, including innumerable by-election and local election specials, as well as the 1975 EEC referendum night coverage. From 1983, he switched to radio coverage on election nights, although he makes occasional television appearances on election night, most recently in 2015. To this day, he maintains that he has not spent a British election night outside a broadcast studio since 1945.
Butler also played a central role in burgeoning election coverage in both Australia and India. Butler's first trip to Australia – a protracted, six-month stint at the Australian National University in 1967 – saw him making numerous political analysis broadcasts through the Australian Broadcasting Company. He returned to Australia for the 1969 general election and would become a fixture of Australian election coverage for the next 30 years, spending much time in Australia in the early 1970s researching his book The Canberra Model (1974). As Australian broadcasters diversified with the advent of commercial television in the 1970s, Butler played the same offscreen as well as onscreen role in advising on election broadcasting as he had done with the BBC two decades earlier, in this case for each major Australian broadcast network.
Butler's 1967 stint in Australia also marked his first visit to India; and by the early 1980s, he was becoming a regular visitor to India as well. Butler's 1984 co-authored book A Compendium of Indian Elections, the first of three volumes on post-independence Indian elections, reflected an increased interest in the field. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Butler again visited India for each general election, and advised on Indian election coverage, particularly for his co-author Prannoy Roy's New Delhi Television network (NDTV).