Television broadcasting of the House of Lords started in 1985 and of the House of Commons in 1989. Since then its rigidly controlled format has not changed at all. Is it not time, given the huge advances in digital television technology, that Parliament allowed the individual citizen to choose how to view proceedings?
Now that one can summon up a page of eight different screens on SKY or the BBC via a set top box, it surely must be possible for the citizen to be given a number of options at the press of a button as to what view of proceedings in Parliament they wish to have. Yesterday, for example, I would have wished to listen to what was being said but at the same time to have watched the reaction of the Labour backbenches as it was being said. Thus the ordinary citizen can judge better for himself or herself what the mood of Parliament is.

Permitting multiple different views of the Chamber would also help to remove the incentive to form a ‘donut’ around the Frontbench speaker which deliberately gives a false and misleading impression of how many backbenchers are attending the session: if the Chamber is not well-attended, then that fact should be open to scrutiny by all citizens who might then be inclined to ask why this is so.

One reason for a thin attendance is that members may well be engaged in a number of committee meetings that are taking place around the palace of Westminster. This will be self-evident if the choice available includes all such committees.

There was some modification last year of the rules: frankly little has changed for the ordinary viewer.

The present arrangements reflect the initial hostility of many members twenty years ago to the whole idea of parliamentary broadcasting. Whilst some element of control is reasonable (for example in the event of some form of demonstration intruding into the Chamber), it is surely time to allow a fundamental change in those arrangements so that that every citizen can have a better choice of how they wish view proceedings. Parliament after all belongs to ‘us’ and not ‘them’.

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