Bloggers and journalists wake up to new rights to film local council meetings today.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has published a new guide for local people explaining how they can attend and report their local council meetings – and it explicitly states that councils should allow the public to film meetings.
The new how-to guide (in full below) gives practical information for the public to attend meetings of a council’s executive and how to obtain council documents.
It should provide some clarity for bloggers, journalists and hyperlocal publishers who currently are reliant on seeking permission to film.
The relevant paragraph states clearly:
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.
It also makes clear that the Data Protection Act does not prohibit such overt filming of public meetings.
Pickles highlights the changed media landscape and the work of hyperlocal publishers: “I want to stand up for the rights of journalists and taxpayers to scrutinise and challenge decisions of the state. Data protection rules or health and safety should not be used to suppress reporting or a healthy dose of criticism.
“Modern technology has created a new cadre of bloggers and hyper-local journalists, and councils should open their digital doors and not cling to analogue interpretations of council rules.
“Councillors shouldn’t be shy about the public seeing the good work they do in championing local communities and local interests.
The new rules do not apply to Wales, as they have not been introduced by the Welsh Government who have devolved responsibility. This led to the situation of a blogger being arrested and handcuffed by the police for filming a council meeting in Carmarthenshire. Wrexham council also banned a journalist from the Daily Post from tweeting a council meeting. Eric Pickles has today challenged Welsh Ministers to introduce the new rights in Wales too.
As one of many bloggers currently involved in negotiations with a local council about allowing the cameras in, I shall be updating councillors on this later today and will blog the progress over at www.richmond.n0tice.com.