Why does Wirral Council believe it can direct how filming of its public meetings are done (when not filmed by themselves)?
Since a legal change in August 2014, I have filmed eleven public meetings of Wirral Council’s Birkenhead Constituency Committee with no problems.
The press release issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in 2014 can be read at that link.
The 2014 legal change contained in the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 amended both the Local Government Act 1972 and Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 (both of which had previously given a power to Wirral Council to stop filming at public meetings).
In fact the legal situation was reversed, Wirral Council’s previous power to prevent filming at public meetings was removed and Regulation 4 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies 2014 placed two different duties on Wirral Council which were both amendments to s.100A of the Local Government Act 1972:
“(7C) A person attending a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting must, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for doing so.”
Before the meeting started I was told that an Emma Wilkes (who is a company director of Neo Community Cafe and Catering Limited) would be speaking on the Holiday Food and summer Feeding Birkenhead activities item. She said that they had received a £10,000 grant from the Department for Education and she said that as part of the terms and conditions of the grant that she had to seek the Department for Education’s permission for “publicity”.
As a compromise I agreed (for that item only) to film a councillor on the Birkenhead Constituency Committee during that item as she threatened not to give the presentation if she was filmed.
Since the meeting, I’ve been in touch with the Department for Education’s press office who have directed me to page 8 of their standard terms and conditions for grant funding.
The only two relevant standard conditions of the DfE grant funding are:
“19.3 Publicity material for your grant funded activities must refer to the programme under which the grant was awarded and must feature our logo.
19.4 We will only endorse the funded programme/project of work and not the organisation. If a third party wishes to use our logo, you must first seek permission from our Corporate Branding Team at email@example.com.”
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However, during item 5 (Birkenhead in Bloom), which you can watch above an Eve Openshaw was speaking.
Here’s a transcript:
GEORGE THOMAS: Can I ask Eve Openshaw is she here?
EVE OPENSHAW: Can I not be filmed please?
GEORGE THOMAS: And this is Wezzy Gardens, is that right EVE?
EVE OPENSHAW: Sure is.
GEORGE THOMAS: Take it away.
EVE OPENSHAW: Right, I’m Eve Openshaw, I’m actually the founder of the Wezzy Gardens.
CLLR CHRIS MEADEN: Excuse me one second, Eve doesn’t want to be filmed.
JOHN BRACE: I’m sorry, I was just told about item 4, this is item 5 you see.
DAVID ABRAHAM (Solicitor working for Wirral Council): Yeah, well I think if people are requesting.
CLLR GEORGE DAVIES (CHAIR): It’s safer not to.
JOHN BRACE: Well I didn’t know who she was so.
DAVID ABRAHAM (Solicitor working for Wirral Council): Well OK.
EVE OPENSHAW: I did actually say when I stood up.
DAVID ABRAHAM (Solicitor working for Wirral Council): John, can we turn the camera round so it’s not on the lady in question?
CLLR GEORGE DAVIES (CHAIR): OK, Eve you’re alright?
DAVID ABRAHAM (Solicitor working for Wirral Council): Just make sure it’s targeted towards us in the corner.
JOHN BRACE: It’s filming you and the two people next to you.
DAVID ABRAHAM (Solicitor working for Wirral Council): My Hollywood profile. Sorry.
CLLR GEORGE DAVIES (CHAIR): OK, Eve.
Before the public meeting started, it was suggested to me by a Wirral Council employee that if somebody objects to being filmed at a public meeting and I film them, then this could be a breach of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which was enacted into domestic legislation earlier this year by the Data Protection Act 2018.
However if data is processed for what the Data Protection Act 2018 terms “the special purposes”, one of which is journalism (see Data Protection Act 2018, Schedule 2, Part 5 then various provisions (conditions for consent, objections to processing etc) don’t apply.
In future I will be silently not acceding to any future requests from Wirral Council, its councillors or Council employees as to how I film public meetings (whether of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee or other sorts of public meetings). Unfortunately this just gives Wirral Council the impression that they can direct how filming of public meetings is done.
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