Parliamentary Broadcasting Agreement versus global media and the internet
There's been a bit of talk in the media over the last few
days about a recent edition of The Daily
Show with Jon Stewart
. The interest comes from Channel 4's
decision not to show a
particular internationally syndicated episode because it contained edited
extracts of video from Parliament.
The problem lies in the parliamentary broadcasting agreement
(PARBUL). This prohibits, by penalty of a few nights in the Tower no doubt,
broadcasters from editing footage from the chamber. Which is exactly what the
Daily Show did. After all, it's common practice everywhere else.
Channel 4 simply called it a ‘compliance problem'. But
there's been a little bit of a moan in media circles about how archaic this all
seems. The New Statesman sums
it up well.
There are a couple of issues at play here. On one point, the
New Statesman is absolutely spot on. The now well out of date broadcasting
rules for Parliament have simply failed to keep pace. Not just with the
internet but with the growth of digital broadcasting and global media
consumption. It makes no sense that you can show footage from the UK Parliament
in the US but to do so would
be illegal in the UK.
The problem goes further, as many MPs know only too well. PARBUL has been a
nightmare for Members wanting to put clips of themselves up on their blogs and
websites. The US Congress provides Members' offices with the tools to get
near-live two minute segments; straight after a Member speaks, it's on their
own website. Do that here and you're in trouble. Yes, it is ridiculous. And
everyone knows it. That's why PARBUL has been renegotiated this year.
Which brings me on to the second issue here. As Radio 4's
Today programme showed us this morning, taking a few
words out here and there can and does change meaning. What the Daily Show
did is fine for satire but we need to be careful when it comes to ensuring the
media has a responsibility to broadcast exactly what was said in Parliament.
What's OK for satire isn't OK for Newsnight, where it's definitely not
acceptable to edit out any materially important part of a clip.
Finally though, as always, what you can't see on TV, you can
see on the internet - the footage is freely available on YouTube.