18/06/2011

Council meetings should allow filming

I was talking at Friday's Aberystwyth bloggers meet-up about Jacqui Thompson, the blogger who was ejected from a Carmarthenshire Council meeting for filming on her mobile phone and subsequently handcuffed and put in a cell by Carmarthen police. The incident has now been picked up by the wider press and the general outcry looks likely to lead to a change of thinking by Councils.

journalist/blogger from Cardiff said she was used to going to Assembly meetings and seeing those fully televised so couldn't understand how Councils could be any different. I must say I agree. Councils allow public and press to attend most meetings so there would really be no difference in principle if council debates were televised, if anyone was sufficiently interested, that is.

There's no doubt that being filmed can be stressful, and most local councillors aren't really geared up for that degree of limelight, but, now we're in a new technological age, I think it's something that has to be accepted at all levels of government in the interests of openness and transparency in the 21st century.

I don’t buy the idea, promoted by some elements of the English press, that anyone taking part in democracy effectively has no right to a private life, but a general rule of thumb should be that any meeting open to the public should allow filming from the public gallery, whether by professional broadcasters or the general public. At least there won't be any misquotes.


Update: Since writing this post I've come across this petition to the Welsh Government which takes the idea a step further.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, I agree entirely with the principle. My immediate reaction to the petition was to feel that appealing to Central Government in Cardiff should be unnecessary and that individual Councils should decide this by way of their own Standing Orders, being accountable to their electorates. However on looking at the Town Council Standing Orders, which Alun and I both recently voted for, I see that the need for permission for recording the meeting is a legal requirement, not one which the Council itself can vote to remove. So it looks like the law would have to change for it to be a right. That said, permission can be given by an individual council.

    ("j Photographing, recording, broadcasting or transmitting the proceedings of a meeting by any means is not permitted without the Council’s prior (written) consent.")

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