Inquiries Act broadcast ban to be challenged

Journalists are set to challenge a ban on live broadcasting from the first inquiry to be held under the new Inquiries Act.

A preliminary hearing for the first inquiry opened last week in Cardiff, but the chairman immediately announced

he was banning live television or radio broadcasts — even though, under Welsh Assembly rules, all internal hearings are broadcast.

Professor Hugh Pennington opened the Welsh Assembly’s inquiry into an outbreak of E.coli in school dinners last

year, which killed one pupil and made 150 others ill.

The inquiry will be held under the Inquries Act, which came into effect last July, and will form the legal basis for the vast majority of future inquiries ordered by ministers.

Because of a parallel police investigation, Professor Pennington said he had to proceed with care with public hearings and handling of evidence.

Although transcripts of all oral hearings will be published at once, Pennington said he was “minded” to bar both photographers and live broadcasting of the sessions.

Questioned later because of concerns that this may create a precedent, Pennington said he was concerned that live broadcasting might “get in the way of people giving evidence”.

ITV Wales has said it will be issuing a challenge against the ruling.

A spokesperson for BBC Wales told Press Gazette: “We are aware of the chair’s decision to exclude the broadcasting media from the hearings. The chair has indicated that he may listen to any case put forward by broadcasters for TV or radio access. We are still considering whether we will be putting in such a request before the start of the hearings.”

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