Commons scuppers bid to televise corridors of power

By David
Rose The Government has scuppered a bid by broadcasting journalists to
televise real political drama in the Westminster corridors of power.

At
present TV cameras are restricted to the chamber and committee rooms
and a number of vantage points such as the Central Lobby, where
politicians can be interviewed.

But a bid by politicians and
journalists to allow cameras to televise MPs in the main committee
corridor, where much of the offstage political drama at Westminster
takes place, has been foiled.

The campaign was led by a Hansard
Society Commission headed by filmmaker and Labour peer David Puttnam,
whose members included Jackie Ashley of The Guardian, Matthew d’Ancona
of The Sunday Telegraph, Peter Riddell of The Times and Labour MP
Martin Linton, a former Guardian journalist.

Presenting their
proposals to the Government during a Commons debate, Linton said:
“There should be a relaxation of the rules of filming around the
precincts of Parliament.

“People are not allowed to take still
photographs, which means that many newspapers refuse to use grainy
pictures taken from the television monitor and end up using nothing at
all.”

But Nigel Griffiths, deputy leader of the Commons, told
MPs: “One must avoid going too far. When I was in New Zealand a few
years ago, I watched televised news reports of Parliament there.

The
Prime Minister had got himself into a pickle in a committee room and I
was horrified to see that a television PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS/IAN WALDIE
PHOTOGRAPH: IDOLS/YORAM KAHANA NEWSDESK: 020 7038 1455 BROADCAST crew
that was hollering questions was able to follow him down the corridor.”

His
rebuff will prevent the positioning of cameras to show Tony Blair
leaving a crisis meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The
BBC has already been reprimanded for showing the Prime Minister walking
to a crucial PLP meeting, jacket over shoulder and shirtsleeves rolled
up.

However, Baroness Amos, leader of the House of Lords, has
agreed the Lords will consider relaxing some of the stringent rules
governing the use of cameras in the chamber, and the Commons is
expected to follow suit.

At present, when televising debates, broadcasters are not allowed cutaway shots, reaction shots or close-ups.

The
current rules prevented the cameras showing the full drama of the paint
bomb attack on Blair during Prime Minister’s Questions in May 2004, and
the invasion of the Commons’ chamber by fox hunting supporters the
following September.

The BBC was rebuked for showing a
slow-motion shot of the paint landing on the front bench, and a
wide-angle shot of the hunting demonstrators, both shots being
forbidden under the rules.

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