HC Deb 31 January 1990 vol 166 cc181-3W
Mr. Page

To ask the Lord President of the Council what consideration the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House has given to changes in the rules of coverage for the televising experiment.

4. Sir Geoffrey Howe

At its meeting on 29 January, the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House considered a number of representations from the broadcasters for experimental modifications to the rules of coverage (the guidelines to the television director as to the types of shots which may or may not be used). On this basis, the following changes to the rules set out in the Committee's first report of Session 1988–89 have been approved.

Reaction Shots

The rule which permits a reaction shot of a Member who has been referred to will be interpreted less strictly so that a specific mention of the Member's constituency, or in the case of a Minister, his office, will not be necessary; so long as it is clear to the director which member is being referred to, a reaction shot will be permitted. As under the existing rules, this change will not apply at Question Time or during ministerial statements and subsequent questioning.

Group Shots

A group shot—mid way between the standard head and shoulders shot and the wide-angle shot—will be permitted; such shots may be used either for the purposes of showing the reaction of a group of Members or in order to establish the geography of a particular part of the Chamber. This shot will be available to the director at any time, including Question Time and during ministerial statements and subsequent questioning.

Second Feed of Wide-Angle Shot

A second feed, showing a continuous single wide-angle shot from the end of the Chamber, will be provided as soon as the necessary technical facilities are available. This feed may be used only for editing purposes; it may not be used for separate live transmission, or for mixing electronically with the main feed for live transmission. The second feed will be time-coded, and extracts from it may only be employed in their correct chronological sequence within the proceedings of the House.

Zoom Shots

The Committee has also decided that the director should be encouraged to make appropriate use of his ability, under the existing rules, to zoom in on a Member speaking or to zoom out to show the same Member in relation to colleagues in his or her vicinity.

All these changes, including the supply of the second feed, will be subject to the existing rules relating to the coverage of incidents of disorder. During such periods when the director is required to focus on Mr. Speaker, the second feed will be withdrawn.

In deciding to approve all these changes, the Committee has been particularly swayed by the argument that the House has agreed to an experiment and that the only way of establishing whether certain shots are appropriate is to see them in operation. The House will, of course, be the final judge when it considers the Committee's detailed Report on the outcome of the experiment.

It is hoped that these revised guidelines for the television director will be brought into effect on Thursday 1 February. Although no time limit has been set at this stage on the duration of the changes, the Select Committee will monitor very closely their impact on the way in which the House's proceedings are covered and will review their operation as the experiment continues. As the Committee's report made clear, further modifications during the course of the experiment, whether in the direction of greater latitude or increased strictness, cannot be ruled out.

The report also stipulated that the rules of coverage for the Chamber (and, by implication, any changes in the rules) should apply mutatis mutandis to Committees".

I should stress, however, that there is no question at this stage of a second feed from Committees.