Friday, 29 July 2011

Filming: belatedly recording a victory

I've been so distracted with all the other misdeeds of Barnet's Tory administration that I didn't have time to mark a victory! The recent climbdown over filming from the public gallery at council meetings. The councillors, including Tories, voted at the council meeting on Tuesday 12 July to allow this.

Since then former Tory councillor Daniel Hope has been filming away, including with a tripod. The results appear on his Barnet Bugle video channel. I always wondered why Mr Hope was so hot on this issue, but now I see that he has simply been dying for the opportunity to try out his own equipment in public (sorry, I'm thinking about my holiday at the seaside again and those naughty postcards I saw).

I'm not sure what the councillors decided with regard to looking into the council spending some money to get professional filming done (no disrespect to Mr Hope). My own view is this would be good: just check out Haringey council's television coverage. Yes, it's like watching paint dry, some of it, but it does aid transparency, and helps councillors to remember to behave well. Yes, it costs, but democracy does, and I think the savings deriving from more democratic scrutiny will easily outweigh the outlay.

I did some campaigning on this filming issue myself, including getting a legal opinion via Bindmans on it, so it's good to register a victory! Of course, it was only a matter of common sense to give in - with modern technology and the talk of transparency, how could filming reasonably be stopped? But common sense is in short supply in Barnet's Conservative administration so we should count ourselves lucky that this went through.

3 comments:

Daniel Hope said...

There are very many good reasons why Conservatives and those who believe in freedom of the individual would be 'hot' on wanting to broadcast what our elected representatives do.

1. People's behaviour changes when they know other are watching. Bad things are much more likely to happen when people think they can when people think they can't be seen. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2009/05/26/brandeis-and-the-history-of-transparency/

2. The taxpayer's have a right to see what decisions are taken on their behalf, with their money

3. From the Bugle's perspective it is good for 'business' as we have a lot more material to work with

4. Having the freedom to film, rather than relying exclusively on the Council (no doubt with a continuation of the ban on the public filming), is a poor substitute. Firstly how reliable with this be? Will it strangely go offline at awkward moments? Secondly, if the Council has to burden large costs for filming meetings there will be a perverse incentive to decrease meetings due to 'large savings'.

5. Mrs Thatcher was a huge fan of shining a light on what goes on in local government, so it must be a good idea!

Daniel Hope said...

I've just had a look at your link to Haringey. Not quite sure 'professional' sums it up, jerky shots, zooming in to the wrong Councillor, for some reason shot in 4:3 not 16:9 widescreen format...

http://www.haringey.ukcouncil.net/site/player/pl_compact.php?a=61923&t=0&m=wms&l=en_GB

We need a Big Society approach in Barnet. Those in the online community should agree to divvy up the task of covering all meetings, probably with shared equipment, and save the Council money.

Mrs Angry said...

Help me: I want to agree with Mr Hope for the second time this year, I think - his point about the effect on people's behaviour improving is a very good one, and not something that had occurred to me, but he is right. Imagine how residents who do not attend meetings will feel when they see the Tory councillors acting so childishly in full council meetings, talking disrespectfully through speeches, sniggering etc. Not to mention the ludicrous pomp and ceremony with the macebearers etc.