Are Wirral Council councillors trying to restrict the filming of public meetings again?
I’ll declare at the outset that I regularly film public meetings of Wirral Council.
Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee next meets on the 27th February 2018 starting at 4.00 pm in Committee Room 3 at Wallasey Town Hall.
Item 5 on the agenda is a proposed revised “Protocol for the Filming of public meetings”. Although most of the changes relate to Wirral Council filming meetings public itself, there are changes proposed to policy that are in relation to others filming public meetings at Wirral Council.
The planned changes involve each time Wirral Council films the meeting that the Chair states at the start, “I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet and will be capable of repeated viewing.”, as well as signs up inside and outside the meeting room for the public meeting stating,
Please note: this meeting may be filmed for live or subsequent broadcast via the internet – at the start of the meeting the Civic Mayor / Chair will confirm if all or part of the meeting is being filmed. You should be aware that the Council is a Data Controller under the Data Protection Act. Data collected during this webcast will be retained in accordance with the Council’s published policy. Public seating areas will not be filmed by the council. Contact Officer: Civic and Committee Services Manager – 0151 6918559”
The changes proposed to be added to the public filming the meeting include, “A designated area shall be set aside for members of the press/public who wish to film or secure a sound recording of the Council’s public meetings. Any disruptive behaviour or distractions will result in the person(s) being asked to leave the meeting.
So does this mean I can’t clap, smile, frown, sneeze, cough, change batteries, zoom or pan as this may be deemed a “distraction” and I’ll be possibly asked to leave before I even had time to turn off the camera? And if I answer no thank you, would that be used as further evidence of a distraction and then I’d be forced to leave?
If one person filming a meeting is classed as distracting, then councillors and officers need to learn to concentrate better without getting distracted by distractions!
As if to prove my point, here is their sample text for agendas!
Everyone is welcome to record meetings of the Council and its Committees using whatever, non-disruptive, methods you think are suitable. If you have any questions about this please contact Democratic Services (members of the press please contact the Press Office). Please note that the Chair of the meeting has the discretion to halt any recording for a number of reasons including disruption caused by the filming or the nature of the business being conducted. Persons making recordings are requested not to put undue restrictions on the material produced so that it can be reused and edited by all local people and organisations on a non-commercial basis.“
Wirral Council hasn’t consulted with myself on the proposed changes to its filming policy. The Chair can stop Wirral Council filming if he or she wishes, but if the meeting is open to the public they have no legal powers to stop filming and would just rely on goodwill!
If you ’d like to express your views on this proposed policy before the Standards and Constitutional Committee meets on the 27th February 2018, email contact details for the 9 councillors who are on it are below.
Cllr Moira McLaughlin (Chair) firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Paul Stuart (Vice-Chair) email@example.com
Cllr Ron Abbey firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Bill Davies email@example.com
Cllr Brian Kenny firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Chris Blakeley (Conservative spokesperson) email@example.com
Cllr Gerry Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr John Hale email@example.com
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat spokesperson) firstname.lastname@example.org
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