Public get right to film Chichester District Council meetings

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GOVERNMENT legislation allowing the public to film council meetings was met with concern by Chichester district’s cabinet.

At a meeting last week (September 9), the cabinet approved an update to its standing orders to bring it in line with the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014.

However, concern was expressed about people unfairly editing recordings and posting them online, as well as how to monitor the filming of children and vulnerable people.

Council leader Heather Caird said: “I think it’s going to be very difficult to monitor exactly what the public are photographing and recording.”

Deputy leader Myles Cullen said videos could be edited to make it look as if something occurred that was in fact ‘totally fictitious’.

“It’s new territory,” he said. “I think it’s the public’s right. The public can attend the meeting. What can be done with recordings today by the average person can totally distort the reality of what went on.”

Cabinet member Josef Ransley said a move was stopped by some councillors a few years to go to allow the webcasting of council meetings, meaning the council now had no recording of its own to point people towards for clarification.

He expressed a fear people could be misrepresented online, adding councillors would have to hope press and public recordings were ‘edited in a fair manner’.

Carol Purnell, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “We’ve had the situation for many years now where people could covertly record anyone and I’ve been at meetings where that’s happened and it’s very difficult to enforce that on them, even when you knew someone was covertly recording something – not a great deal could be done.”

Cabinet member Eileen Lintill added: “I hear all that’s being said and I don’t disagree with any of it. If you’ve got someone who’s really determined to film something, they will film what they want.

“I think this is one that’s going to be really hard to control and people will go away from a meeting and you won’t know what they’ve recorded. It’s a bit of a nightmare, really.”

It was decided by cabinet that people wishing to film should inform the chairman of the meeting beforehand.

However, an initial plan to allow members of the public to request they not be filmed when speaking was scrapped.

Cllr Ransley pointed out this legislation was designed to boost transparency, not to still allow people to ‘speak from the shadows’. Those using recording devices must be discreet, without disturbing the meeting.