In what must be one of the first tests of the new rules for bloggers and journalists who want to film council meetings, Richard Taylor goes along to Huntingdonshire District Council with his camera.
The five minute video captured here starts with a polite request, descends into some faintly Monty Python-esque conversation about when a chair is not a chair but ultimately Richard makes his point.
Over at his own blog Richard explains that, prior to the filming, he’d contacted Communities and Local Government minister Eric Pickles:
Unexpectedly Minister Pickles responded to my tweet, to suggest the council’s rules had been superseded by his statements and the council’s demanded notice and permission to film were not required.
Richard’s experience, also reported by the BBC, comes in the week I met with a handful of my local councillors at Richmondshire Council. I was invited to present my case and answer any questions/concerns in an informal workshop. I blogged about it here.
I still have to seek permission as the new guidelines do not cover councils which operate outside of an executive, or cabinet, structure. I first applied in March and no decision has yet been made or a date for the request to be formally considered set.
While its great that citizen journalists like Richard feel confident enough to tackle the authorities, the situation on the ground still seems at odds with not just the letter but also the spirit of the documents coming out of central government which would give people, not just journalists and bloggers – anyone, an unquestionable right to report public meetings including this OGP UK 2013 Draft National Action Plan: From Open Data to Open Government which states at 4.4 Local Government transparency.
There is now a clear presumption that these meetings must be open to the public except in very limited, specifically defined circumstances. The Regulations require councils to provide reasonable facilities, where practicable, for any person who wishes to report the proceedings of public meetings, including the use of social media.