Saturday 26 November 2011

Swansea Council to allow filming but doesn't go far enough

Interesting couple of news items in today's South Wales Evening Post. In a fairly positive move from Swansea Council, filming will be allowed...sort of, but as Councillors Rene Kinzett and Rob Speht point out very well, it doesn't go far enough. It will only be open to journalists and media organisations who will have to apply to the Council for permission and adhere to an, as yet unknown, policy. I could go on about all this but I have made my views clear throughout this blog; there is nothing for councils to fear by letting the public, or bloggers, film meetings; they need to realise it is what is going on in the Chamber that matters, not who's watching them.
Carmarthenshire Council, in particular, should remember this...

Filming decision to put Council's work in focus 
Swansea Council will be one of the first in Wales to allow cameras inside its chamber.
Members have approved proposals for the filming of meetings by accredited journalists and media organisations.
Chris Holley, council leader, said: "This is an important moment for the council and for local democracy. The council has a budget of around £380million a year and now council taxpayers who don't attend meetings will have a chance to see more about how councillors decide how their money is spent.
"The council's aim is to make it as easy and as straightforward as possible to allow the media and journalists do their job while also ensuring the conduct of meetings can continue effectively and efficiently.
However, at the council meeting on Thursday night some members said the proposals did not go far enough.
Tory member Rene Kinzett said: "This is a time when the media is moving ahead and we've huge amounts of online information available to us. I am remarking on a case in Carmarthenshire where there was an arrest for nothing more than trying to blog or take a picture.
"Now we are saying that everybody must fill out some sort of form. Everybody is a journalist.
"Everybody can go online and make comments. I think it's a nonsense. I would like this to be taken back and looked at again."
Jacqui Thompson, 49, from Llanwrda, an internet blogger, was arrested back in June for trying to film Carmarthenshire Council on her mobile phone.
Four police officers were called to County Hall in Carmarthen to deal with the incident.
Writing on her blog afterwards, Mrs Thompson said she was led away in handcuffs and kept in custody at Llanelli police station for around three hours. She said she was only released after she agreed not to film a council meeting again.
Under the new policy journalists and media organisations will need to apply for accreditation from the council to film or take photographs at meetings which would normally be open to the public.
They will also have to comply with terms and conditions set out in the accreditation policy.
It means that in meetings of the council in the chamber, the chair of council will be able to permit or disallow the media from filming or taking pictures.
Lib Dem councillor Rob Speht said he found himself agreeing with Mr Kinzett, and also called for the proposals for filming to go further.
He said the ability of every man to film and put the content on social media groups such as Facebook was helping bring about democracy in countries like Egypt.
"Not that I'm saying this council is like that," he added. "But this should be referred back. At the moment there is no way of being able to feed back imagery from this chamber by those who are paying for it."
However, councillor Mike Hedges said while he was fine with live streaming, he questioned whether filming would be open to editing."

Just what are they scared of? - Editorial
News-gathering techniques have moved on apace in recent years.
Phone camera images of Colonel Gaddafi were flashed across the globe within minutes of his death. Protesters in Egypt can spread the truth before the propaganda machine starts working.
And the Syrian government is no longer able to crush rebellion away from the gaze of its neighbours.
Yet in this country we are not yet allowed to see democracy in action in council chambers or justice at work in court.
We are completely in favour of Swansea council's bid to be one of the first in Wales to allow cameras in.
With so many complaints to the Ombudsman, the Swansea public should have the chance to see for themselves what's been going on in the council chamber.
The spotlight may encourage councillors to conduct themselves in a more professional manner than they have been.
But we are not happy with the committee chairmen and women being able to ban filming or photography whenever the fancy takes them.
What are they afraid of?

(source for both articles South Wales Evening Post)


Cneifiwr said...

This is a very half-hearted gesture indeed. For it to succeed, the local press and other media organisations would have to attend and film all public meetings, and that is very unlikely to be the case, even in Swansea.

Cllr Mike Hedges also needs to ask himself about editing. There is nothing to stop anyone from taking a council press release and editing it, or to prevent a journalist or anyone else from editing comments made in a council meeting. Why should film be any different? Editing is a fact of life, and he needs to come to terms with it.

Honest journalists, including citizen journalists, will try to give their readers an accurate account of what happened in a meeting without subjecting them to all of the jargon, back-slapping and tedious drivel which makes up most meeting time.

And as for honesty and editing, anyone who compares what goes on in Carmarthenshire's council meetings with the official minutes will know that some councils could give a masterclass on dishonest editing. Which is exactly why we need filming.

Nospin said...

filming controlled by the council and made by approved companies, is A) propaganda B) unnecessarily expensive.

Why are they worried, afraid they might make a boo-boo and get sent up via the tube, it can't be the content because the public is allowed in to observe.

Afraid that bits that don't get into minutes may have been recorded??? and could be used against them at some point in the future.