BBC, ITN and Sky have urged the Government to ensure that legislation to partially lift the ban television cameras in court is in the next Queen’s Speech.
The ban was partially lifted last September when plans were unveiled to allow cameras into the Appeal Court to hear judgments and to look at televising judges’ comments at Crown Court trials.
Filming and broadcasting in court is currently banned under Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, but broadcasters want this overturned via a new bill in the Queen’s Speech in May.
A joint letter to the three main party leaders from ITN chief executive John Hardie, Sky News head of news John Riley and BBC News director Helen Boaden today said: ‘The administration of justice is a key part of a democracy. It shapes and defines a civilised society.
‘The ability to witness justice in action, in the public gallery, is a fundamental freedom. Television will make the public gallery open to all.
‘If legislation is announced to lift the ban within the next few months, it will still be some time before we see the first case on TV. There will have to be detailed discussions about what can be shown, and in which courts.
‘A great deal of work needs to be done by the judiciary and court officials, civil servants and the media working together to ensure that the change succeeds in its chief aim of opening up courtrooms to make the judicial process more understandable and accessible.”
It continued: ‘Each of our organisations fully accepts that there must be limitations on what can be broadcast and we agree that the presiding judge should have complete control of what is shown from the courtroom.
‘We recognise that concerns have been raised about the impact television coverage will have, particularly in controversial cases. However, we believe that the outcome can only be positive.
‘The experience over the last two years of live streaming from the Supreme Court has shown that the presence of cameras has not affected the course of justice in any way in this court. Instead it enhances public understanding and allows everyone to see justice being done.
‘Everyone who believes in transparency should support this proposed change in the law. This is a long-overdue reform. For too long the UK has lagged behind much of the rest of the world on open justice. The time has come for us to catch up.
‘We hope that you share our view of this important issue, and that you will welcome the introduction of a Government Bill to change the law.’