Saturday, November 21, 2009

20 Years of MPTV - Tonight on the Parliament Channel

Tonight at 9pm on the Parliament Channel David Wilby presents a special programme taking a look at how Parliamentary life has changed since letting TV cameras broadcast its daily business.
The autumn of 1989 was the culmination of years of arguments in Parliament; was it a necessary feature of a modern democracy for the public to watch their elected representatives at work? Or would the TV cameras destroy the sanctity of Parliament, with broadcasters manipulating the pictures and mischievous MPs using the cameras for self-publicity?

The programme will have details of a survey for BBC Parliament which reveals that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of MPs think televising has made Parliament more transparent, while 93 per cent of MPs think that a Parliament closed off to television would now be "unthinkable".

But concerns about the broadcasting of Parliament remain, with 21 per cent of MPs claiming that televising the House of Commons has undermined its dignity.

That may be so, but would anyone seriously argue that the cameras should be withdrawn? Most of us would argue for the idiotic restrictions which prevent certain shots being shown whould be completely lifted.

4 comments:

Michael Heaver said...

21% of MPs say that cameras have undermined the Parliament's dignity?

Funny, thought they'd done a good job of that themselves.

Chris said...

Exactly what are these current restrictions?

Paddy Briggs said...

Is it a coincidence but it seems to me that the quality of debate in the house is today far, far lower than it was before the cameras arrived. I went to the House a few times in the 1970s and early 1980s and you could usually rely on some decent oratory if the issue was big enough. Today the House is just a forum for political point-scoring, soundbites, the confirmation of Government policy (which has already been leaked or announced elsewhere) and for polarised invective. Their is hardly anyone I would want to watch anymore – no Foot, Cook, Powell, Kinnock… Thatcher started the downward trend. She never debated (you have to listen to debate) she just whined and ranted and shouted. Never! Never! Never! Cameron and Blair have been good speechmakers but not good debaters. Like Mrs T they listen only to find a weak point in an opponent’s argument. That’s part of good debating of course, but only part. And the jokes – Oh God how awful are the jokes these days! Even Cable’s Mr Bean quip was pretty weak when you think about it.

We don’t have parliamentarians any more – just grubby politicians who are lobby fodder and mostly inarticulate.

Jamie said...

It's clearly unthinkable to stop filming Parliament, but I think it has had an effect on proceedings there. The ding dong of Prime Minister's Questions and the huge amount of coverage it receives is an example of that.

However, Parliament does still manage a level of debate that is relatively vigorous. In the US Congress people speak to cameras in a literally empty room (barring the clerks, pages and speaker). Of course, you'd never know because the cameras are ordered to focus so closely on the member speaking (our rules aren't that draconian). I think we got off pretty well, especially as Members manage not to stare into the cameras unlike some Congressmen...