CHAPTER 6: PRESS AND MEDIA
93. The House of Lords press office (currently
staffed by the Head of Press and Media and one assistant) focuses
on publicising the functions and work of select committees, the
Chamber and the House more broadly. The office also handles media
enquiries and works with officials across both Houses to improve
public information and access. Journalists and broadcasters praised
the "pro-active" approach of the current Head of Press
and Media (QQ 193, 208; ITV regions), and Peter Riddell,
Political Commentator and Assistant Editor of The Times,
singled out how journalists were now kept informed about committee
reports and hearings, saying that that was an area where the House
had improved "enormously" (Q 189).
94. However, the Hansard Society considered that
the press office did not have "sufficient resource capacity
to convey the full scope and nature of the work of the House of
Lords, the depth of its scrutiny of legislation, and the changes
it secures through debate and committee work. More often than
not, a limited staff such as [in the Lords press office] is going
to be working on a reactive rather than a proactive basis."
Specifically, the Society argued that the House "should invest
in more media officers to promote the work of its committees.
If the House of Lords wants to engage more widely with the public
then it needs better resourcing in this area of work." Furthermore,
the Society said that, in addition to promoting the work of the
Chamber and the House's committees, there was also "scope
for covering the interests and work of Peers more widely as well.
The House of Commons media and communications service has recently
established a new post to focus on features and factual programming.
The House of Lords should consider doing the same" (pp 11-12,
95. Lord Cameron of Dillington, Lord Feldman
and Lord Norton of Louth also argued for more press officers in
the Lords: "There is a marked disparity in the employment
of press officers in the Lords compared to the Commons and, indeed,
the Scottish Parliament (see Lords Hansard, 25 February
2009, col. WA89.) There is a compelling case for extending the
resources of the Information Office, not least to double the number
of press officers" (pp 65, 102-03, 116).
96. One question which arose during our inquiry
was how to balance the demands of different media. Ralph Negrine,
Professor of Political Communication at the University of
Sheffield, suggested that the House's committees should not focus
on the mainstream media but should employ staff to target and
communicate proactively with specialist audiences via specialist
media and online media (pp 144-47). ITV Regions suggested
that the House should do more with regional broadcast journalists
"to highlight debates, issues and peers that are relevant
to the regions they cover" (p 90). Lord Cameron of Dillington
suggested that members could be encouraged to notify the Information
Office of their local publications, and the Office could then
notify those papers when the members made "meaningful"
interventions (p 103). The Hansard Society went further,
suggesting that the House should establish a regional press system
"with each member invited to sign up, indicating their willingness
to actively engage with local/regional media in a specified region.
Each region should have an assigned press officer who co-ordinates
the press/media work with the Peers" (pp 15; Q 23).
Lord Norton of Louth suggested that the parliamentary outreach
officers, who are already eastablished and based in the regions,
could provide briefings to local media (p 65). Lord Hunt
of Chesterton suggested that members could be more proactive by
informing Information Office of significant speeches they intended
to give, and the Information Office could offer advice (p 136).
Lord Lipsey suggested that members should proactively engage with
the press by "promoting specific causes" in which they
were involved (p 141). John Hipwood, Political Editor of
the Wolverhampton Express and Star, agreed that it was
members themselves "who should be providing the links"
and should be "more proactive in contacting members of the
[press] gallery", and that position was shared by other journalists
and broadcasters (QQ 188-89, 193-95, 213, 291-92, 294, 316-17).
97. There is a limit to the amount that the press
office can do. During the course of our inquiry, a modest increase
in the staffing level of the office was agreed, and an additional
press officer will be recruited. There is also a limit to what
the office can do for individual members whilst maintaining its
political neutrality. We recommend that the administration
continue to build relations with regional and local media as well
as national media. We recommend greater use of online media.
98. The Puttnam Commission recommended that Parliament
provide a formal induction for journalists joining the press gallery.
The Hansard Society suggested to us that the induction should
be formal as that would be "beneficial for the House"
(Q 26). Furthermore, they proposed that such induction should
be "enforced perhaps, for example, by linking the taking
of an induction course to the provision of a parliamentary pass"
(p 15). ITN, on the other hand, unsurprisingly said that
a formal induction was "not necessary", but a voluntary,
informal session might be useful "for those that wish to
attend" (p 88). Lord Lipsey, Lord Norton of Louth and
Baroness Thomas of Winchester thought that the House should help
new members of the lobby to understand more about how the House
operates (pp 65, 141, 163), and John Hipwood agreed that
introductory sesssions would be "a good idea". He suggested
that we follow up the proposal with the Chairman of the Press
Gallery (Q 192).
99. We recommend that the House experiment
with offering information sessions to members of the press gallery,
and our Chairman will write to the Chairman of the Press Gallery
to take forward this recommendation.
100. The Hansard Society suggested that the House
should explore what support it "might provide to accredited
journalism training providers across the country" The objective
would be to "ensure that journalism training schemes across
the country are offered support in covering the House of Lords
effectively as part of their training programme
have long-term benefits in educating the next generation of journalists
about the role and work of the House of Lords" (pp 11,
101. We recommend that the administration
explore possible links with journalism courses.
Recommendations on Press and Media