22 October 2014

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Journalism tutors urge council to back filming at meetings

A group of journalism lecturers have joined forces to urge council leaders to allow greater access to local authority meetings.

Richard Horsman, left, Leeds Trinity University’s associate principal lecturer in journalism, has collaborated with colleagues at other Leeds universities to argue that filming and recording public meetings is in the interests of open democracy.

In the open letter, the lecturers urge Leeds City Council to allow audio and video recordings by any interested party, including their students and the wider community.

It has been written ahead of a meeting of the council’s General Purposes Committee today which will discuss access to meetings.

Also signing the letter were Sean Dodson, senior lecturer and leader in Postgraduate Journalism at Leeds Metropolitan University and Julie Firmstone, lecturer in communications research and programme leader in BA Broadcast Journalism at the University of Leeds.

Richard said: “I’m sure a majority of councillors across the political spectrum favour the idea of being more open. But they’re unsure of how to go about it.

“They’re being cautious; it’s easier to say no than to embrace the opportunities video and audio recording can offer.

“I’m hoping that when members reflect on their own experience of using the internet, and on the successful coverage of Parliament which has long been open to TV as well as radio, they’ll come round to the concept of opening meetings to cameras – subject to sensible safeguards.”

The letter comes after guidance from communities secretary Eric Pickles said that councils should allow the public to film meetings.

Said the letter: “We believe allowing the recording of audio and video in Leeds City Council meetings has huge potential benefits for members, for our students and for the wider Leeds community.

“By throwing light on the proceedings of council it should make these proceedings more transparent and relevant for residents and thereby encourage greater participation in elections, in consultations and in the democratic process.”

Students from the universities currently attend council meetings as part of their studies and the material they gather is broadcast and published across the city through the public-facing TV, radio and online output.

The open letter can be read in full on Richard’s blog.

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