I did not point the camera at two members of the public who I was aware had expressed a wish not to be filmed when invited to “opt out” by the chair at the start of the meeting. These were:
- Michael Bond, the planning representative of the Old Chesterton Residents Association; a representative of the Cambridge Federation Of Residents Associations, and Chairman of, and spokesman for, the Chesterton Community Association.
- Lil Speed, an East Chesterton resident.
In the case of two additional individuals I became aware of their wish not to be filmed after I had turned the camera to cover their contribution; I have removed the couple of seconds of footage of them from the video. These were:
- Leica/Leila Dockeril
- Kay Harris (A tenant member of the council’s powerful Housing Management Board)
Words of all public speakers who asked not to be filmed have been spoken by me. I also decided to remove the name of a junior council official about whom vague allegations/comments were made by a public speaker.
My view is that it should be possible for anyone to film those who make representations in public at council meetings and I think it would be reasonable to publish such footage irrespective of if the person making the representation expresses a wish not to be filmed.
Cambridge City Council has though introduced a filming protocol, and the full council has unanimously directed meeting chairs that:
The Chair of the meeting will facilitate by ensuring that any such request not to be recorded is respected by those doing the recording.
That is something I disagree with, but feel it is necessary to respect. Ignoring the chair’s directions, which I think have some legitimacy given they derive from a policy set democratically by the full council, would I would expect lead to me being asked to stop filming, and if I refused, thrown out of the meeting for being disruptive for not following the chair’s direction.
Had I been thrown out early in the meeting I would not have had an opportunity to contribute to the meeting; and would not have been able to follow the remainder of proceedings.
At the previous meeting of the North Area Committee the chairman Cllr Pitt went against the wishes of the full council banned the filming of any public speakers (he has now apologised). There was no objection to, or restriction placed on, audio recording, and I have published all the footage I took of that meeting, unedited.
Following the November meeting of the committee I was made aware via Twitter (when I sought advice on if I ought remove footage of Leica/Leila Dockeril and Kay Harris) that while I was under the impression there were no objections to audio recording at the meeting, and had in fact recorded audio throughout, Cllr Ward at least appeared to take another view:
@RTaylorUK And the sound.
— Tim Ward (@TimWardCam) November 21, 2013
Another attendee, LibDem defector and current Labour activist, Clare Blair tweeted:
— Clare Blair (@ClareBlair) November 22, 2013
@RTaylorUK I’d take “filming” as both a/v, but maybe there should be standard questions for this. but you know what was said.
— Sam (@smithsam) November 21, 2013
In light of this I have decided not to publish the audio of those public speakers who asked not to be filmed. I thought the public interest in hearing what they had to say though, and what councillors were responding to, was sufficient to put the effort into re-voicing their words.
While I am doing this in an attempt to in part put my activities beyond reproach; and also because I realistically only have the time and resources to make one shot at editing the video (I will then delete the very large files of raw footage) I want to be sure it doesn’t contain anything I might have to consider taking down in the future. I also want to seek to avoid dealing with requests to take material down from my website as considering and dealing with that kind of correspondence is very time consuming.
I am concerned though that my actions set a very high bar for those wishing to film and share Cambridge City Council meetings.
Something I’d like to see is the professional media filming and recording council meetings more. I can’t see that happening while councillors impose such restrictions on what can be collected. No professional journalist would risk their reputation by turning their camera away from news; and professionals also have to consider their individual, and their organisation’s relationship with the council which they have an interest in maintaining.
My view is that many of the contributions made by those who were not prepared to be filmed were not particularly valuable or appropriate. Area Committees are expensive to run and a lot of taxpayer’s money was wasted in my view with rambling contributions.
Because we don’t want to put the public off contributing.
Council meetings are intimidating places. My view is that having an independent film of a council meeting actually shifts power away from the councillors towards the public. While councillors are still the ones what their minutes record a member of the public said, and what they replied, a recording of proceedings allows that to be checked.
How council meetings ought be filmed appears to be something lots of people have views on; and those views are very diverse.
@RTaylorUK Thanks. Sadly some of us were not able to make the meeting, so filming very valuable.
— Camb. Cycling Cam. (@camcycle) October 5, 2013
- Cllr Mike Pitt Goes Rogue Restricting Filming at Cambridge North Area Committee – October 2013
- Battle to Film at Huntingdonshire District Council – June 2013
- Cambridge City Council Bans Filming Meetings – November 2010
- Cambridge City Council to Review Restrictive Filming and Photography Policy – March 2012
- Asking to Film and Ask Public Questions at Cambridge City Council – April 2012
- Seeking Permission to Record Cambridge City Council Meetings – September 2010
- Speaking About My Filming Ban at the Cambridge City Council Civic Affairs Committee – November 2010
- Cambridge City Council Complaints Investigator Reports on Filming Protocol – November 2010
- Cambridge City Council Seek To Control Use of Footage of Councillors – April 2012
- Tips for Observing and Reporting on Public Meetings in Local Government – July 2013
- Minister Eric Pickles Cites My Tips for Reporting on Local Councils – August 2013