HC Deb 03 April 1995 vol 257 cc1388-9
38. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on the current level of parliamentary broadcasting. [15729]

Mr. Newton

Parliament makes available coverage of all the proceedings from the Chambers of both Houses and some Committees. The use made of that material is a matter for editorial and scheduling decisions by the broadcasters. Most viewers see coverage of Parliament in daily, national or regional news programmes. There is also some live coverage and a number of daily or weekly programmes using parliamentary material.

Mr. Mackinlay

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that there has been a fall in the amount of coverage given by television to proceedings in this Chamber? Is it not partly because of the restrictions placed on broadcasters, which prevent panning shots and reaction shots—for instance, to the comments that I am making now—and the need for greater access and editorial freedom to enable broadcasters to show the totality of the proceedings in this Chamber, rather than just the person who is speaking? Will he also bear it in mind that the Committee Rooms in which a number of important Committees sit do not have cameras? Those Committees should be reported on television, but it is not possible because the technology is not there.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will know that some relaxations in the rules covering the use of reaction shots were introduced in 1991. The Select Committee on Broadcasting, which I chair, took a further look at the rules recently and felt that the necessary consensus did not exist, either in the Committee or in the House, to justify further changes at this stage. Given the amount of coverage that is devoted to occasions when the rules are at their most restrictive, I rather doubt the hon. Gentleman's assumption that such rules inhibit coverage.

Mr. Michael Brown

What powers has the Broadcasting Committee to take action against broadcasting organisations when they flagrantly break the rules that this House has set? For instance, in an incident not long ago Channel 4 News used slow-motion shots of this House when a Division was taking place. What action can be taken when the rules are broken?

Mr. Newton

The Broadcasting Committee could propose a range of actions to the House. In that case, the matter was taken up with the television companies concerned; they have said that they accept that what happened was outside the rules and I would not expect it to recur.