Thursday, 3 October 2013

Filming Thanet District Council meeting and council webcasts.

The council officers seem to recommending that councillors vote not to allow filming of council meetings at tonight’s council meeting.

In June of this year The Department for Communities and Local Government produced a guide about council meetings http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/documents/s32778/Annex%201%20-%20DCLG%20-%20Your%20Councils%20Cabinet%20-%20Going%20to.pdf

It says:

“Can I film the meeting?

Council meetings are public meetings. Elected representatives and council officers acting
in the public sphere should expect to be held to account for their comments and votes in
such meetings. The rules require councils to provide reasonable facilities for any member
of the public to report on meetings. Councils should thus allow the filming of councillors
and officers at meetings that are open to the public.

The Data Protection Act does not prohibit such overt filming of public meetings. Councils
may reasonably ask for the filming to be undertaken in such a way that it is not disruptive
or distracting to the good order and conduct of the meeting. As a courtesy, attendees
should be informed at the start of the meeting that it is being filmed; we recommend that
those wanting to film liaise with council staff before the start of the meeting.

The council should consider adopting a policy on the filming of members of the public
speaking at a meeting, such as allowing those who actively object to being filmed not to be
filmed, without undermining the broader transparency of the meeting.”

But the senior officers advice for tonight's meeting is:

"4.2.1    Another option that could be considered is an amended version of the existing rules on the filming of meetings.  Firstly for the purposes of clarity, what the Council means by an ‘accredited media organisation’ could be expressly defined and added to the Constitution.  Secondly, consideration could be given to reserving the decision on whether to permit the filming of a meeting by an accredited media organisation to the meeting as a whole instead of the Chairman.  

4.2.2    It is suggested that the definition of an accredited media organisation that is included within the Council’s Constitution is: “a media organisation or individual that holds a National Press Card and is registered with the Press Complaints Commission (or its successor) or a similar regulated body with a code of conduct and associated complaints process through which the Council could take recourse”.

4.2.3        This definition retains the Council’s right to take recourse with a journalist or body if it thinks that it has been misrepresented in order to protect the Council’s interests.

4.2.4        Currently the decision as to whether to allow filming by an accredited media organisation rests with the chair of the meeting in question.  In practice, some chairs have made the decision whether or not to permit filming without reference to their committee members whereas others have adopted a more inclusive approach and sought the views of the committee, either in advance of the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting itself. Although one possibility would be to recommend that the decision is taken by the meeting as a whole as this would allow for a more representative decision, one of the advantages of the decision remaining with the chair is that accredited media organisations can seek permission in advance via the corporate communications team and this gives the chair time consider his or her decision and seek the advice of officers if required. It is suggested (in Annex 2) that requests to the chair need to be submitted at least five working days prior to the relevant meeting. Where permission to film has been granted, the members of the committee will be informed of that decision prior to the meeting taking place.

4.2.5        It is important to note that this approach would still retain an element of Option one in that the recording or filming of meetings of the regulatory committees (Licensing, Planning, Governance & Audit and Standards) would still remain prohibited.

4.2.6        On balance therefore, if this option is preferred it is recommended that the revised definition of accredited media organisations set out in paragraph 4.2.2 above is adopted but that the decision whether or not to permit filming remains with the chair of the meeting." 

In amongst all the bumph the council has published about this at http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=141&MId=3051&Ver=4 see 17a, the council is spending money on bandwidth problems associated with hosting the films they make of the meetings.

No mention here of why the can’t just put the things on YouTube for nothing, or for that matter live stream them to YouTube. 

I have tried emailing various councillors about this one, but have so far only had reply from Simon Moores: “I'm in favour of allowing filming with the chair's approval ie you make a request in advance

I guess this rather epitomises the problem of modern government, I don’t have much time to monitor what the council are up to, so I didn’t notice this one until yesterday, which doesn’t leave much time to get thing sorted. Which I am trying to do with my mobile internet and the only councillor who I know of that will respond immediately to an email is Simon.   

I also emailed Clive, thus:


From: "michaelchild@aol.com" <michaelchild@aol.com>
To: clive.hart@btinternet.com
Sent: Thursday, 3 October 2013, 9:26
Subject: TDCTV


Hi Clive, what is the Labour group’s position on the filming of council meetings? I heard it was being decided today, until yesterday.
There doesn’t seem to be any reason that the council can’t just live stream the meetings to youtube, now that youtube have removed the length and size restrictions, so I can’t understand all the stuff about bandwidth and cost.
The government paper seems to be quite clear that anyone should be able to film public council meetings and yet out officers seem to recommending that the public shouldn’t be able to film public meetings. 

Best regards Michael

here is his reply 

"Being discussed this evening at full council."

various other councils are using youtube to live stream council meetings here is the link to York councils webcasts http://www.youtube.com/user/cityofyorkcouncil?feature=watch  


12 comments:

  1. I know one other who would respond if the BBC were covering it and there was a photo opportunity. Otherwise you are quite right that, for the moment, Simon Moores seems to be the only TDC councillor willing to engage with the public.

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  2. Point scoring epps. try to actually have a POSITIVE input, not the negative nonsense that seems to be your forte. getting boring. do you actually understand what this argument is about? judging by your response, no - you dont. Time to resign Bill. You are old and out of touch. Try to actually engage with the argument next time. Pathetic point scoring.

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    Replies
    1. Since I now know who you are, Tim, time to get a little more polite in exchanges. I was agreeing with Michael's comment, and therefore relevant, that Simon Moores is the only TDC councillor who engages with the public and responds to exchanges. As to age, well yes I am a pensioner, but I doubt I am as far out of touch with reality as you.

      The point about engaging with the argument is an interesting one coming from you. At least I picked up on a point in Michael's post whereas as your contribution is nothing more than a personal attack on me. What have you added to the debate and do you understand it?

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    2. I didn’t bother to email Ian Driver as he has already made his position clear, and I am sure like the government and Simon, he will be supporting allowing the public to film public meetings.

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  3. A little harsh anon! However, there are four options. 1. Free for all. 2. Change wording of current situation. 3. The council do it. 4. Another option. Option 2 - the preferred option - increases the ability for locals to film (you would have to hold a card PLUS be registered with the press complaints commission) Option three is clouded with technical figures. Open one is deliberately worded to make it seem ridiculous.

    Personally, if option three could be improved (so it didn't take weeks to publish the footage) it would be the preferred option but I also agree with Simon's point - it can be allowed if the Chair authorises it. We know that option two will be supported.

    What have the council got to worry about? Are they worried that Thanet locals will see the monthly bun fight?

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  4. Fair summary of the options, Duncan, but I am not in a position to comment on the thinking of the TDC councillors. From a personal point of view I feel the more openness the better and might lead to a better relationship between the council and the people they serve. If filming helps that, then it has to have much to recommend it.

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  5. I guess the main issue for me is that the council do it so badly and expensively, pretty much anyone could do a better job with £100 pay as you go phone and the app to live stream it to YouTube.

    Dithering around with dated and expensive IT solutions is just embarrassing for everyone.

    They seem to have lost track of the main point here, which is these are public meetings, paid for by the public. I think the attitude of pay for a child sitter, get a job as a newspaper reporter (to join the press association you have to derive your income from journalism) so free journalism, non profit making publications like blogs are excluded, is just preposterous.

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  6. Agree on both points. Transparency seems to be an issue TDC Councillors - from most sides of the chamber - seem to be shying away from. This - naturally - causes suspicion by the public.

    The main reason for the time delay is to cut out anything that is not "official" council business - I noted a couple of edits in the last piece. However, the technical argument of point three is wrong. If it is taking that much time for an officer to prepare the footage, I would suggest they need to re-evaluate the process. It should be done in an hour or two, not the two weeks we currently have to wait.

    If you put all the blogs, facebook sites and "unofficial" press reporting in Thanet, their reach would be about ten times that of the IoT Gazette. This is legitimate reporting and Clive et al are simply scared that people will take their comments out of context. Like Alan saying that people who werent born in Thanet dont really have a say.

    The fact is - they do make these comments and the public should be allowed to view their responses. If the councillors cant stand up to this scrutiny - I know many who would welcome it - then they should consider standing down.

    If they cant face the public who voted them in, they should stand down. Allow filming like the majority of the UK. Not allowing it makes them seem scared.

    I also like how this issue is buried amongst a packed agenda - a good day to bury bad news?

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  7. TDC are stuck in the 1960's! Though without the mini skirts and backcombed hair!

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  8. Simon does not blog as a councillor Michael. It follows that he cannot be "Engaging with" the electorate via his blog. His status, as a blogger, is the same as yours.

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    Replies
    1. Funny thing anon “engaging with the electorate” not the type of thing I can imagine myself saying, a bit like the council’s “member training sessions” it has connotations of the famous literary phrase “Big Ears went out on his bicycle and felt a little queer”.

      If I did say such a thing and I hope I didn’t, you have my sincere apologies, as I age, I find myself joining the “temporary challenged” so I suppose I could have said such a thing other than in jest.

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    2. Simon Moores may run a blog expressing his own views or just as a diary of events at times, but he is a councillor, he does do some posts on council happenings and he responds to people who raise questions as a result. Clearly then he is engaging with members of the public.

      Delete

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