It’s not clear when it’s going to come into force, but that’s the gist of a new draft protocol on the recording of meetings that’s just been published on the council’s website.
The new protocol is a major departure from interim arrangements decided by the council last October that banned video recording at any council meeting and didn’t allow audio recordings to be made of committee meetings dealing with licensing and planning matters.
The content of the new protocol is going to be debated and agreed by councillors at a committee meeting a week on Tuesday (4th March).
Here’s what you do
In line with the new protocol, all you’ll have to do as a would-be recorder is turn up to your selected meeting (there’ll be signs saying recording’s allowed), let the chair or clerk of the meeting know you’re going to record, keep your device on silent, don’t use flash or other extra lighting, don’t move around in the meeting room, and don’t obstruct others from seeing what’s going on.
The chair of the meeting will be able to order a halt to recording when councillors discuss exempt or confidential information (no surprise there, as the press and public get kicked out then anyway); when there’s a public disturbance; when any recording has become “disruptive or distracting to the good order and conduct of the meeting”; or when a member of the public attending the meeting objects to being recorded.
The new revised council protocol comes after Secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles placed the rights of the public to “report, blog, tweet and film” into the Local Audit and Accountability Bill last year.
Just how the Bill will enshrine those rights in practice isn’t clear yet. Draft regulations are expected any day now from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Code of practice
There’s a two-paragraph code of practice that comes along with the Leeds protocol that specifies that any published recording should be accompanied by “a statement of when and where the recording was made, the context of the discussion that took place, and a clear identification of the main speakers and their role or title”.
“Those making recordings must not edit the recording in a way that could lead to misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the proceedings or comments made by attendees,” it says.
“In particular there should be no internal editing of published extracts; recordings may start at any point and end at any point but the material between those points must be complete.”
Once Mr Pickle’s regulations have been issued and agreed, the council’s solicitor may have to tweak the detail of the protocol and make “consequential amendments” to the council’s constitution, says a report that’s going to the 4th March meeting.
Consulted … erm … really?
Back in October when the interim (more restrictive) arrangements were being debated by councillors, several of us interested parties sent our two penn’orth in to the council, saying what we thought.
Three of those submissions were circulated at the October meeting – from the Leeds Guardian‘s John Baron, the Leeds Citizen and a group of lecturers from journalism departments in Leeds universities.
So imagine the surprise when the report prepared for the 4th March meeting says the council has contacted “those who made representations at that time (and other media based organisations) and have asked for views on the (new) protocol”.
I don’t think so.
The university lecturers have been asked, but John Baron, the only person in the city who regularly reports from council meetings (and that includes the local mainstream media), hasn’t. Neither have I.
Not bitter, but best to keep the record straight.