Prebble Letter To Speaker - Parlt. Media Coverage
18 August 2000
Rt Hon J L Hunt
Speaker of the House
Dear Mr Speaker
MEDIA COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENT
I write to suggest the real solution to the problem of the coverage of Parliament is to put the proceedings of Parliament onto the internet. It is now possible using “live streaming” and audio links to produce high quality pictures on the internet.
I refer you to the coverage of the Republican convention on the internet. The BBC currently broadcasts sittings of the British parliament, which you can view at http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsa/live/parliament.ram (you may need to install 'Real Player' on your PC). As I write the Commons aren't in session, but the Democratic convention is being broadcast live on the net. I understand that at other times the House of Lords and even select committees are broadcast.
The problem with the rules issued by yourself and previous Speakers is that we all know they will not be obeyed. There is a reluctance to enforce the rules. The media have difficulty in following the rules.
I note that TV3 on Saturday night did not have a camera in the House when Mrs Shipley made her allegation of “digging up dirt”, so TV3 used library film. It is the nature of television - they need pictures.
When dramatic incidents occur in the House, TV will film and we all know they will show it.
Either there should be no limitation and MPs accepts they are on show, or we have a duty to produce film of the total proceedings and make it available to anyone who wants to download it and rebroadcast.
I am advised that it would be relatively cheap. Cameras could be installed below the galleries. (This would also mean fewer shots of MPs revealing that we are going bald).
The cameras would be programmed by computer to focus automatically on the MP who is speaking - when no one is speaking, back on Mr Speaker.
The public have the right to see and hear their representatives debating the issues. We are proud of the fact that we were one of the first parliaments to be broadcast on radio. It’s time we caught up with new technology and put Parliament on the world wide web.
Hon Richard Prebble, CBE
LEADER, ACT NEW ZEALAND