Thursday, March 17, 2005

TV3 democracy

Congratulations to TV3 News for having the guts to stand up against dictatorial censorship of filming MPs in the House. Although the network risks censure and perhaps a ban by showing David Benson-Pope's nap time in Question Time, the Speaker's decision to go ahead with the government's own monopolised feed means the media have little to lose by pissing them off. Banned now or later? BFD.

Courtesy of Stuff

In spite of previous Speaker Jonathan Hunt's reassurances that the government feed could happily sit next to the existing media, Margaret Wilson thinks that the gallery would be too crowded with all those cameras, and they do it overseas so that's OK.

Mainstream media and bloggers from across the political spectrum are up in arms about the censorship. TVNZ's Dick Griffin, Dominion Post editor and head of the Commonwealth Press Union Tim Pankhurst, TV3's Mark Jennings have all weighed in strongly opposed to the move.

I am heartened by Parliament wishing to provide video feeds of the House and select committees out of public interest. It's one small step to transparency and lowering the considerable barriers to public access in that most hallowed of zoos. However, it should not come at the price of open and free media.

The Press Gallery acts as third umpire, keeping a watch on the watchmen while the Speaker is preoccupied. Under the new state-and-computer-controlled system, an MP could make rude gestures to distract a speaking member without getting caught. Such actions might escape the Speaker's attention, especially if they are new to the job. However, MPs cannot have their eyes on two places at once (David Benson-Pope has difficulty focusing his eyes on one). An independent media provides an important check and balance.

That said, I hope the new public access feed will include 24/7 access to the camera above the Speaker's Chair. Then invite Paris Hilton over for a tour...