The Media Circus

dbp.jpgHere’s something that’s been bugging me for a while. It’s been sitting in the back of my mind.

I can’t decide which side of the fence I sit on with respect to the new restrictions placed on the media in Parliament’s press gallery. Particularly since there is now a live stream from parliament so you can see everything.

I’ve been slightly distrustful of tv cameras in the house for some time. I get the feeling it leads to MPs attempting to ‘soundbyte’ their speaches for the news. I’m not sure I like it, but this alone doesn’t quite lead me to call for banning them in their entirity. I think if you are to have them at all, then the rules were actually too restrictive.

The new restrictions allow more freedoms for television cameras (e.g. wider shots and being alowed to show the reaction of MPs) but less for photographers. The rules also prevent the use of any footage or images to be used for the satire, ridicule or denegration of MPs.

As expected, there has been a bitter howl of resentment from the press, and a quite amusing stint of civil disobedience on their part.

I think the disparity between television and print journalisms smacks of inconsistency, and I don’t like it.

What gets me is the new rules for which images can be used. That’s bollocks. It’s now illegal to use them for satire with politicians in this country. Satire is a legitimate form of free speach and should not be trifled with. You are also not allowed to show politicians in the house doing unflattering things like sleeping or picking their nose or whatever.

I can see a point in defence of these rules, which is that MPs don’t like personal attacks based on their habits or appearance in the house. In principal I agree because I don’t see that recent shots of an MP picking his nose in Parliament is especially newsworthy material. Good taste would suggest that the news shouldn’t have shown it anyway, but they chose to. I also don’t see a problem with MPs who pick their nose running the country. If the action allows them to keep oxygen flowing to the brain, hence enabling a clearer thought process, I’m pretty OK with them remaining in parliament.

The point has been made that parliament sits for seven hours at a stretch, and it is quite hard to sit for that length of time under an unflinching recorded gaze without slipping up a few times. I appreciate the difficulty as I wouldn’t like to sit under that scrutiny either. Not all MPs sit through this in any given sitting, however. After a brief period, most MPs are free to leave, with only a small quorum rostered on to stay.

My stand is this: MPs hold the highest offices in the land. They are paid well over double the average wage. I have no doubt they work hard for it. I sympathise that they are sometimes misrepresented in the media. However, even if you are rostered on for a sitting, I will not tolerate you sleeping in parliament. You are there to represent the people who elected you and I detest this level of disrespect. For this reason I will stand against any move to prevent my being informed of this.

I have seen soldiers. They have not slept more that a few hours at a stretch for weeks on end. They have been wet through and freezing that whole time. They have been scarcely and irregularly fed. They are battle fatigued from having their nerves on edge and trying to sustain alertness. They are tired to the point of hallucination. I have seen them lie unmoving in a hole in the ground at 3am and stare into the unchanging darkness for hours looking for an enemy that is not expected to come, waiting for relief that never seems to arrive.

I submit that if you are rostered to sit in the house, you better front up concious. Yet some of our MPs can’t remain awake for a few hours during question time. For better or worse, MPs are public figures and the public should have a right to know how they are being represented in the house.

The banning of satire is particularly insulting.

Fortunately these rules are ‘session rules’ and stand only for the term of the present parliament. They can be moved to a permanent standing order by the Standing Orders Committee.

I don’t think they got this set quite right, but I’m not sure reverting to the old rules is an improvement.


3 Responses to “The Media Circus”

  1. 1 Metro 19 July, 2007 at 7:21 am

    Do your cameras swivel?

    Canada’s Hansard recording cameras are permitted to focus solely on the speaking member or Speaker of the House. This of course eliminates any concerns about being spotted snoozing off a liquid lunch.

    Our government is taking its cue from Bush. They’ve essentially banned the press from Parliament and curtailed the freedom of MPs to make their own statements. Everything sent out is vetted by the PMO’s public-relations wing, which as I understand it is run by an American woman possibly tutored by Karl Rove.

    Secretive, fearful (for just reasons, I’m sure), and contemptuous. So glad we didn’t actually elect this bunch of pricks.

  2. 2 archiearchive 22 July, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    Australia’s parliamentary TV cameras are aimed at the Speaker (who is the most biased speaker we have ever had in Oz), at the Government front bench, centred on the microphone used by the minister answering the question, at the front bench of the opposition, along with a swivelling camera which can cover the whole room. (I think there are a total of 4) The only problem is that our National Broadcaster (ABC) broadcasts question time from the Lower House three times a week and the Upper house twice a week. Other than that, the only parliamentary broadcasts are an ABC show for half an hour at around 2am on a Saturday night called “Order in the House” which gives a summary of the entire week’s performance by our leechesrepresentatives.

  3. 3 archiearchive 22 July, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Aggghhhh – Leeches representatives! [I hope ;)]

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