Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Electronic Hansard" - Catching your Member of Parliament in "unsavory circumstances!"

Good Day Readers:

Don't you love this. Principally through Bills C-30 and 51 Parliament, if it has its way, wants to be able to monitor your telephone and internet activity 24/7/365, however, not so for Members while in the House of Commons.

We say lets film them all the time. If your MP is not wise enough to treat every television and microphone as  turned on whose fault is that? Red lights on cameras will allow them to pander even more effectively. Why shouldn't taxpayers be able to watch their Members sleeping or preening themselves? Let's see how many we can catch with their pants down.What's good for the goose is good for the gander!

Clare L. Pieuk
Put a red light on 'live' TV camera in Commons Chamber, MPs want to know when they're on

MP concerned about wide angles, empty seats, sleeping MPs and other embarrassing moments in House of Commons
By Laura Lyckewaert
Monday, February 20, 2012

Ever get caught on national TV in the Commons coiffing your hair while using your cellphone as a mirror? How about falling asleep? And how about those empty Commons seats? MPs will try to put an end to those embarrassing House moments as the House Affairs Committee reviews the radio and television rules governing the House Chamber and its committees.

The camera is usually supposed to stay on whoever is standing and speaking in the Commons.

“Sometimes if there’s a wide-angle shot you may have someone who is sitting several rows over from the Speaker, or from the person who’s delivering remarks, who’s caught on camera,” said Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Saskatchewan), a member of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, in an interview with The Hill Times.

“I think that some MPs feel uncomfortable in that environment, they’d like to know whether or not [they’re being filmed]. No one has an objection to being on camera, that’s part of the job that we do, but I think most Members would just like to know if in fact they’re in the camera shot, and if there’s wide-angle shots, many times Members are caught unaware.”

In recent months MPs from both sides of the House have been caught on camera in unsavory circumstances.
On February 6, NDP MP Jonathan Genest-Jourdain (Manicouagan, Quebec) was caught combing his hair while using his cellphone as a mirror and was later seen taking a nap in his House seat. The incident was posted on YouTube. Back in November, Conservative MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, Alberta.), seated one row behind Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, British Columbia) who was speaking at the time, was caught falling asleep in his seat.

The House Affairs Committee is looking at the broadcasting guidelines “in light of a suggestion by a Member that guidelines respecting the broadcasting of the Chamber had not been complied with recently.”

 But MPs who met on February 14 to discuss the issue also said they may want a red light on the camera to indicate when the camera is live.

At the meeting were committee chair Conservative MP Joe Preston (Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ontario), vice chairs NDP MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ontario) and Liberal MP Marc Garneau (Westmount-Ville-Marie, Quebec), as well as, Conservative MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga, Ontario), NDP MP Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, Ontario), Conservative MP Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, Alberta.), NDP MP Alexandrine Latendresse (Louis-Saint-Laurent, Quebec), Conservative MP Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, Ontario), Conservative MP Bob Zimmer (Prince George-Peace River, B.C.), and Mr. Lukiwski.

Conservative MP Amber Stella (Mississauga South, Ontario) was also in attendance, filling in for committee member Conservative MP Greg Kerr (West Nova, Nova Scotia), while NDP MP Matthew Dubé (Chambly-Borduas, Quebec) filled in for committee member NDP MP Philip Toone (Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec).

Audrey O’Brien, the Clerk of the House of Commons, and House Chief Information Officer Louis Bard, the person in charge House broadcasting services, met with the Procedure and House Affairs committee to discuss concerns and suggestions.

But Ms. O’Brien provided a suggestion of her own for MPs: try to stop reading in the House, because it doesn’t make for very interesting television.

Canada’s House of Commons has been televised since 1977. The House never adopted a complete set of rules for broadcasting the House; initially there were only loose guidelines around camera shots and angles, but the rules have since evolved.

Intended from the outset to take an “electronic Hansard” approach to broadcasting the proceedings of the House, the guidelines for broadcasting were tightened up after MPs from both sides of the House complained to the Speaker about the affect loosely-restricted camera angles and shots were having.

Thereafter, camera shots were limited, generally, to the torso and head, and cameras were instructed to take their cues from the House Speaker, showing only those formally recognized and at all other times reverting to the chair. In 1992, wide-angle shots were allowed for Question Period and during roll call votes.

Noting that the use of wide-angle shots are limited under the House’s broadcasting guidelines, at the committee meeting Mr. Lukiwski questioned how religiously the rules on wide-angle shots were being followed.

“Because maybe I’m getting comments from some of our Members who are incorrect, but it seemed that the wide-angle shots were being employed a little more frequently than just in QP and votes; where if a single Member’s standing up to debate and there’s a bunch of empty chairs around him, there’s a wide angle shot that illustrates that. I think that kind of concerns a lot of Members. That if that was happening, it doesn’t look good frankly for Parliament,” said Mr. Lukiwski.

Page 2 of 2

Ms. O’Brien said from time to time there might be mistakes, but said, “we discourage any artistic impulses that would deviate from the torso, close-up shot that’s the usual.”

Mr. Lukiwski also suggested that over-the-shoulder shots taken from behind the Speaker be discouraged on Fridays, when attendance in the House is typically much lower as MPs have headed back to their constituencies, as he said it also shows a lot of empty seats, something he described as “uncomfortable.”

Mr. Albrecht suggested the addition of a red light on cameras to indicate which is actually filming. Mr. Albrecht said when an MP stands to make a speech in the House it’s not always clear which camera is being used. He said a red light would let MPs know where to focus.

Mr. Lukiwski said he felt the addition of a red light would be “a good idea,” and in an interview with The Hill Times, said having a red light on cameras would be a way to help MPs know if they are on camera.
“Several people have said that, yeah, they would find it a better environment if they knew when— and that’s all I’m saying—they just would like to know when they’re going to be on camera,” said Mr. Lukiwski.

Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Bard told the committee they would look into the suggestions, but also had some advice of their own.

“It’s also a question of discipline of members to understand the rules of broadcasting, to understand that you are on camera. At the debriefing of new Members of Parliament we say that a lot of times, ‘you are on camera’… if I have to focus on the [House Speaker’s] Chair and the Member behind is sleeping, there’s not that much I can do,” said Mr. Bard.

Said Ms. O’Brien: “I know how hard-pressed you are for time but I think in interventions where Members don’t read a text, it’s much livelier and people who are watching feel much more engaged, and that automatically is something that I think makes for better television. It’s certainly a difficult thing to ask of Members who are supposed to be covering so many different things.”

Committee chair Mr. Preston said he doesn’t think there’s a problem with too much reading in the House of Commons, but also said he agreed that “the passion doesn’t always come through when you’re reading, even if you are passionate.”

Mr. Lukiwski also said he didn’t think reading was a problem but estimated that 75 per cent or 80 per cent of MPs read from a prepared text.

Reading is not formally prohibited by a Standing Order of Parliament, but, derived from British practice, is an informal rule of Canada’s House of Commons that has loosened in practice over subsequent years.

Mr. Preston said the committee tries to have a meeting to discuss broadcasting in the House at least once a year, and said it’s a chance to ask questions and see if changes are needed.

According to Mr. Bard, through satellite, cable, radio and internet streams, broadcasts of House proceedings are overall able to reach over 99 per cent of Canadians.

“We are invaluable in what we can offer Canadian debate,” said Mr. Bard.

Mr. Bard and Ms. O’Brien will take the committees’ suggestions back to their respective offices for discussion and will prepare a report to be given to committee chair Mr. Preston, explained Mr. Lukiwski, who said he’s hoping to hear back from them shortly.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home