Video – Cambridge North Area Committee – 21 November 2013

Friday, November 22nd, 2013. 3:57pm

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:

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:

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:

Another attendee, LibDem defector and current Labour activist, Clare Blair tweeted:

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.

Cllr Pitt has stated he imposed his ban on filming the public at the October meeting:

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.

12 comments/updates on “Video – Cambridge North Area Committee – 21 November 2013

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I believe Cllrs Brierley, Abbot and Tunnacliffe were silent throughout the meeting (anyone can check the video to see if that’s right).

    Edit: I’ve spotted Boyce was silent throughout too.

    A couple of additional councillors only spoke when prompted to sum up their table’s discussions.

  2. Hester

    When I have time I intend to re-watch the answer to my question. There were several relevant points made and I was unable to listen and write them all down simultaneously. The video will be valuable to me even though I was there!

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    When preparing the video for publication the question arose of what to do when one of those individuals who had asked not to be filmed was speaking over a councillor, heckling them, as the councillor was addressing the meeting.

    I decided not to remove a councillor’s comments from the video on such occasions.

  4. Harry

    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.

    Mr Bond does not to my mind seem to be at the meeting as a ‘member of the public’, but as the representative of two organisations.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      He often does represent various organisations at council meetings; including additionally Cambridgeshire Old People’s Enterprise (COPE).

      Mr Bond doesn’t appear to want those he represents to be able to see what he gets up to on their behalf.

      He appeared to be speaking as an individual at the 21 November North Area Committee meeting (though I don’t know if he had introduced himself at the planning part of the meeting earlier). He did refer to his special access to secret council meetings though; noting he was present at a launch meeting of North Cambridge 20 MPH zone project.

    2. Hester

      Streisand Effect: Mr Bond’s insistence on not being filmed has brought him more attention than just letting it go. There were also three committee members from Cambridge Cycling Campaign there (myself included) but this isn’t highlighted because being willing to express your views in public and for the record is rather less interesting than not. If I go to a public meeting it is because I am happy with my views being out in the open, nervous though I am of public speaking, and liable to make mistakes in expressing myself. If it goes wrong I can only try to apologise and correct.

      However, in defense of Mr Bond, people are members of the public as well as members of organisations. Only one of our members at the meeting was there to represent the Campaign formally, which was Klaas. I was there as a resident of North Area to ask a question of my own devising. There are over 1000 members of Cambridge Cycling Campaign and 13 committee members, and my views are not always one with the official view of the Campaign, and I wouldn’t presume to speak for it unless it had been agreed. Mr Bond must be allowed similar leeway unless he says he is speaking for the organisations he also works with.

    3. Richard Taylor Article author

      I agree, but think the public interest in reporting what Mr Bond says is increased by his various positions; if he is speaking on behalf of an organisation or not.

    4. Richard Taylor Article author

      Mr Bond made an odd contribution to the North Area Committee’s October meeting; as recorded in the minutes:

      Michael Bond: Asked why the lounge and kitchen area were not open to the public for this meeting. He noted that the availability of refreshments was an important part of the meeting.
      The Chair confirmed that the space was being used for a school nursery group, and due to child protection issues, was not open to the public. It was noted that water and biscuits had been provided in the meeting room for the public.

      He complained about the lack of tea and coffee.

  5. David

    I wonder if Mr Bond would have objected if somebody other than Richard had been filming, or what would happen if two different people were filming!

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Do come and film and try and find out!

      Another option would be to try and interview Mr Bond on the street outside the meeting before or afterwards; free of the council’s restrictive rules.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    I was just watching the video again and I’ve spotted a minor problem.

    I’ve made the video private temporarily.

    It will have to go back up on a new URL; I can fix the references on my blog but the tweets referring to it will lead to a “this video is private” page. At least this will draw attention to the complex editing job required to present a full meeting in the manner I am seeking to do.

    It took two seconds to make the adjustment in the video editor but the exporting and re-uploading will take hours.

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