Are the Lords listening? Creating connections between people and Parliament - Information Committee Contents


Filming of Lords proceedings

82.  The House of Lords has always taken a more relaxed view of cameras in the Chamber than the House of Commons, and in 1985 the Lords was the first Chamber to begin a televising experiment. When the Commons began an experiment televising its proceedings in November 1989, it imposed rules of coverage to "protect the dignity of the House". The rules were drawn up to give the House of Commons some control over how it is portrayed on television. They set out what shots may and may not be used, and what may and may not be shown. Broadcasting rules have never been formally adopted in the House of Lords, but in practice debates have been filmed within broadly the same parameters as in the House of Commons. The Puttnam Commission recommended that the rules of coverage be relaxed so as to interest and engage the viewer. We first considered this recommendation in December 2005, and our conclusions led to a new protocol governing filming in the Lords Chamber. The protocol relaxed the rules and conventions that govern what the broadcasters can film when the House is sitting.[16] As a result, the director filming proceedings can use a greater variety of shots, such as panning shots, close ups and reaction shots. The House of Commons adopted a similar change to its rules on broadcasting later in 2006.[17] All the broadcasters we spoke to welcomed these developments and explained how they had helped to make parliamentary proceedings more watchable. The BBC said that the result is that "more people are now watching and they are watching for longer" (p 85). Nonetheless, the broadcasters said that further changes were warranted. They asked for lower camera angles in the Lords Chamber, permission to film divisions and unrestricted access to the wide shot of the Chamber (pp 85, 89; QQ 304-07).

83.  The Committee welcomes the effect that the 2006 protocol governing filming in the Chamber has had on coverage of Lords proceedings. Nonetheless, we consider that more could be done to make footage of parliamentary proceedings interesting for viewers. Later this year, we will review the arrangements for broadcasting Lords proceedings to make the footage more engaging. As a first step, we recommend that there should be a trial period in the 2009-10 parliamentary session during which divisions in the Lords are recorded from within the division lobbies. The images could be broadcast accompanied by the atmospheric sound feed from the Chamber which broadcasters currently use when covering a division, so that specific conversations are not picked up.

Access to the House for filming

84.  The Puttnam Commission recommended "a relaxation of the rules for filming in the precincts of Parliament". We considered this recommendation in December 2005 and agreed that broadcasters should be offered access to a point in Peers Lobby for filming interviews. A recorded interview was installed in 2006, and this was upgraded to a live facility in 2007. The broadcasters said that this development had been "a great step forward" (Q 299).[18]

85.  Despite that advance, all of the broadcasters called for wider access to film in the Palace. For instance, they asked for permission to film interviews in rooms other than the official interview rooms, such as in members' offices or the Royal Gallery (pp 85-90; QQ 298-303). ITV Regions said that there seemed to be "a presumption against filming in many parts of the Palace" which was "inhibiting coverage". They said that the current arrangements were "frustrating" and "confusing", and complained that there is "no obvious comprehensive list of rules which is easily available for broadcast journalists" (p 89). We note that the leaflet setting out the regulations governing photography, filming, sound recording, painting, sketching, mobile telephones and pagers was last published in 2002.

86.  It is clear to us that there is some confusion about access to the House for filming, and we would like to clarify two points. First, members may be interviewed for radio, TV or filming purposes in their own offices without a permit. Second, filming may take place at certain times on the Terrace without a permit. On sitting days members can be interviewed on the Terrace either before noon or before either House sits, whichever is earlier. On non-sitting days filming on the Terrace may take place up to 17.30. The member who arranged the filming is responsible for security; the member should meet the film crew and escort them around the House at all times.

87.  The broadcasters suggested that "there should be a presumption in favour of filming throughout the parliamentary estate except where it is specifically banned. That would make the rules clearer and easier to understand for everyone and would improve coverage especially if there were a wider range of interview points (in addition to Central Lobby and Portcullis House) available throughout the Palace" (p 89). The BBC agreed that if Parliament were to move from having "a very complicated inherited set of rules, which is where we are now," to a "presumption of access", including "access to public events for cameras" and "access to public areas to do sit-down interviews … then that would be huge progress." (Q 297)

88.  Peter Knowles, Controller of BBC Parliament, explained the consequence of the current rules of access: "There is a gap at the moment. We get coverage of the ceremonial and the art and architecture, and there is wall to wall coverage of the Chamber and of certain [committee] hearings, but in between the two there is hardly a glimpse of what this place is like." He drew our attention to the system in place for filming in the Scottish Parliament, where "the broadcasters and the journalists operate under rules, it is not a free-for-all, but you all the time have a sense of meetings going on, of people moving around and doing work." In contrast, the public "rarely" gets to see the House of Lords "as a place of work" (Q 302).

89.  We recommend that there should be greater access to the House of Lords for factual filming. We suggest that there should be a presumption in favour of factual filming throughout the House of Lords, except in specific areas (such as, the Library and refreshment outlets) where filming would not normally be permitted. The presumption should be that meetings and events to which the public are admitted without invitation can be filmed and that members can be interviewed in public areas. Once the rules of access for filming have been reviewed, we recommend that the administration revise the leaflet setting out the regulations governing photography, filming, sound recording, painting, sketching, mobile telephones and pagers so that the regulations can be readily understood. We recommend that a more appropriate room be assigned for interviews.


90.  Since the Puttnam Commission, there has been a major upgrading of the facilities for webcasting parliamentary proceedings. The webcasting site was redesigned in 2006, and since 2007 there has been a programme to install unattended webcams in committee rooms, which is still ongoing.

91.  ITV Regions welcomed the expansion of webcasting (p 90), and the BBC said that the video webcasting of committees was "especially helpful to specialist researchers and to journalists." It had enabled Today in Parliament to cover "a wider range of hearings" than had previously been possible (p 85). ITN suggested that the House should contextualise coverage of its proceedings on the web (e.g. by providing further information on the member speaking and the subject of the debate) "to help the viewer understand what they are watching" (p 88). The Hansard Society suggested providing links alongside the footage to "Order Papers, bills, biographical information about speakers, etc" (p 16). ITV Regions said that contextualisation of proceedings would "assist public understanding of the proceedings of the House" (p 90). The BBC website already shows the live proceedings of the Lords with captions giving names, designations and other contextual information (p 85).

92.  The Committee welcomes the expansion of webcasting. We recommend that all public meetings of Lords committees be webcast with video as well as audio, in order to make the meetings easier to follow online. We recommend that, once Parliament has changed the way in which it generates the underlying data (see above, paragraph 66), the next development for webcasting should be for the parliamentary website to provide contextual information alongside House of Lords proceedings.

Recommendations on Broadcasting

16   The protocol can be found in a Written Statement by the Chairman of Committees (Lords Hansard, 13 February 2006, WS 54). Back

17   See the answers by Frank Doran MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Administration Committee to written questions on 20 June 2006 (Commons Hansard, column 1725W) and 19 December 2006 (column 1795W). Back

18   The Administration and Works Committee considers requests for permission to make programmes about the House and approved these regulations. Back

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