Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Friday, January 17, 2003  

The live broadcast of Parliament. A good idea, isn't it? What would be more sensible that to give the people the opportunity to view their elected representatives as they went about their (the people's) business, as it was happening? As these representatives went about making the decisions that affect us all daily, as they decided how best to spend our tax dollars? Surely, as with the live broadcast of Parliament in the UK (most critically, Prime Minister's Question Time) and the devotion of a whole channel to broadcasting Congress in the US (C-Span), broadcasting our own Parliamentary sessions is a great idea?

Not at all, according to Public Administration & Information Minister, Lenny Saith. In a report in today's Guardian on the post-election seminar on practice and procedure, titled "Parliament and the Media" Saith disagrees with this idea, "indicating that a live broadcast would distract viewers from 'important details' discussed at meetings.

"'Broadcasting an entire Parliamentary sitting is like broadcasting a cricket game live,' said Saith."

I have watched an entire day's play of Test cricket on television; I'm sure many of my fellow citizens have as well. But that's not the point. The point is, wouldn't it be a good thing to make use of the available technology and allow people the option to watch live Parliamentary broadcasts? I think Saith and other sceptics (like independent senator and Guardian columnist Dana Seetahal) might be pleasantly surprised to find that citizens are interested enough in the affairs of their nation to make implementing the idea worthwhile. And if people don't tune in, then simply discontinue the broadcasts. To criticise the idea before it can be tested - and on the grounds that it would be "boring", to boot - is not only premature, but an insult to the intelligence of the people and their concern for national affairs.

Perhaps what bothers the politicians is that now they'll continually have to be on their P's and Q's, and actually conduct their affairs with some sort of decorum instead of their usual playground antics, as session facilitator David McGee of New Zealand noted that MPs and senators who make casual statements in Parliament run the risk of committing defamation.

Not only that, but live broadcasts would mean MPs would have to stay awake, too.

posted by Jonathan | 12:17 PM 0 comments


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