Bercow says give broadcasters Commons freedom

House of Commons speaker John Bercow has proposed giving the TV cameras which provide broadcast coverage of the House of Commons a free rein.

It is a move which would revolutionise broadcast news coverage of British politics.

TV cameras have been in the House of Commons since 1989 and are subject to strict controls on the sort of shots they are able to take.

However, in an interview with the Sunday Times Bercow said: “The rules regarding television cameras in the chamber were originally brought in to avoid focusing on trivia, such as the honourable member for such and such picking his nose. However, MPs have started taking advantage of being able to hide and use blind spots to be boisterous.

“Just as if a football pitch has 100 cameras on it, there will be fewer fouls, and the same goes for the chamber.”

But Chris Moncrieff from the Press Association has warned that such reforms could be counter-productive.

In a piece put out on the PA wire today he wrote: “Parliament-watchers are aware that many MPs are what are impolitely known as ‘media tarts’, and would be delighted at any opportunity to show off in front of the cameras.

“When TV cameras came to the Commons in 1989, strict rules were – and still are – enforced to ensure that MPs who want to play to the gallery are ignored. But if this plan came into being, the ham-actors among parliamentarians would be in their element, with the cameras focused on them.

“It would certainly make for more interesting and exciting coverage of the House of Commons.

“MPs are wondering whether the Speaker actually read a report from the Canadian Parliament where the TV rules appear to have been more relaxed than they are at Westminster.”

Moncrieff notes that the report said: “The televising of the House rewards outrageousness and has led to orchestrated removals of MPs from the chamber and unparliamentary language.

“There has been visual gimmickry in the form of displays of national flags, singing of national anthems and disorder by visitors in the gallery.

“We have experienced unparliamentary activity – for instance a display of dead salmon in the chamber – and the abuse of privilege through slander.”

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