01/07/2011

Filming council meetings – Ceredigion set to join the revolution

Ceredigion Council looks set to open up its meetings to film and sound recording, following a discussion by the full Council yesterday.

The issue was discussed in the light of the incident in Carmarthen on June 6th in which someone filming a meeting on their mobile from the public gallery of Carmarthenshire Council was led away in handcuffs and put in a police cell (see story three posts down, with links).

Since then, a Wales-wide campaign to open up council meetings to recording has taken off, recognising that both the Assembly and Westminster governments allow this and the technology that the average person in the street possesses has now moved ahead of council policy and practice.

The clear consensus of the Ceredigion meeting was that the Council should open up, although within the consensus there were different views. Most supported the Council arranging for the filming of meetings and making that available to the public. But many strongly opposed allowing ad hoc recording on mobile phones, believing this could be made to show a distorted picture by editing.

My feeling is that this fails to understand that anything publically available can be copied and edited in any case. There would be little point in the Council bothering to prevent mobile phone filming and the easy availability of a better quality version would make it less likely anyway. The possession by the Council of an original version would act as a safeguard.

There was a slight suspicion that the occasional press reporter might already have resorted to sound recordings themselves (citing accurate reporting of detailed speeches without apparently writing them down).

I made the point that having a recording of meetings can actually help the Council in some circumstances (for example, legal challenges) and would be more likely to lead to accuracy of reporting.

One councillor proposed consulting S4C on the best system to use, something that could perhaps open up a new avenue for them.

At the end of the debate the Chief Executive agreed to put together a report on the options for the electronic recording of meetings for the Council to consider within a couple of months and some kind of provision looks certain to be set up.

Talking to senior Ceredigion officers, it’s clear they would not have reacted in the draconian way that Carmarthenshire Council did in the first place. But it’s interesting how that over-reaction now looks likely to lead to positive change across Wales, with many other Councils and public bodies due to debate the issue in the next few weeks.

4 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 03, 2011

    I don't understand this "But many strongly opposed allowing ad hoc recording on mobile phones, believing this could be made to show a distorted picture by editing.". Surely all footage is open to that sort of editing. You could do this for very little using something like Bambuser, http://bambuser.com/ you can broadcast live and it backs up your broadcasts. I would'nt have thought that it was an issue letting peopel film for themselves, after all it's using public funding and the council work for the public, and discuss public matters. There's nothing to hide and it's tax payers' money.

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  2. Agreed. You have to understand this is a very new concept for some people which they're struggling to get to grips with and getting a few things wrong in the process. In a few years time I suspect filming council meetings will be fully accepted and everyone will wonder how it could ever have been any different.

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  3. Andrew LyeJuly 03, 2011

    We had BBC Radio Wiltshire recording all open session meetings of West Wiltshire DC before I joined it in May 1991.

    20 years later, Wales still appears to be in the dark ages in some areas.

    PS - see my blog article at www.westerntelegraph.co.uk then click on blogs.

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  4. Andrew,

    Not sure Wales is any more in the dark ages than anywhere else.

    Doing a quick google search I found that Cambridge Council, Barnet Council in North London and Faversham Council in Kent have all recently denied people the right to film meetings. And the Westminster Communities Secretary Eric Pickles obviously thinks there's a problem because he called in February for councils to open up to filming.

    On the positive side, apparently Kirklees Council in Yorkshire introduced a webcast a year ago and Birmingham City Council agreed to trial the same idea in March. However these currently seem to be isolated cases.

    Its great what you were involved in in Wiltshire 20 years ago but, in general, everyone's still in the dark ages. My hope is that the Carmarthen incident and the resulting coverage will lead to Wales becoming a beacon of light.

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