Councillors sitting on a key council committee today approved a new protocol which allows “third-party” filming and recording of all council meetings that are open to the public – from the full council sessions held monthly in the council chamber, to the more regular planning, licensing and scrutiny meetings held in the Civic Hall, to local “area committee” meetings held across the city.
So, if you want to do some filming or recording – your first opportunity is tomorrow when the council’s decision-making executive meets – here’s what the new rules and regulations say:
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 (the press and public get kicked out then); 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.
“Code of practice”
The code 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.”
And should you film or record someone being defamatory at a meeting you attend, don’t make it public by rebroadcasting it on your blog, Facebook page or whatever. It could land you in trouble.
Councillors who could end up being filmed or recorded are being given special training.
Pickles’ regs to come
The new 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.
It also follows a local campaign last year to secure those rights in Leeds.
Just how the Bill will enshrine those rights in practice isn’t clear yet. Draft regulations are expected soon from Pickles’ department. Once they’ve been issued and agreed, the council’s solicitor may have to tweak the detail of the protocol and make any knock-on amendments to the council’s constitution.
It’ll be interesting to see how many people make use of this new democratic right.