Guidlines for reporting local council meetings, reporting elections, and reporting cases that involve children

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published a guide to reporting on council meetings, amid claims that many local authorities are still prohibiting filming.

The DCLG stated the guidance, Your council’s cabinet: going to its meetings, seeing how it works – a guide for local people, “corrects misconceptions” that the Data Protection Act prohibited the filming of councillors and council officers.

The new guide, which can be viewed here, covers:

  • The national rules;
  • Going to meetings of a council’s executive;
  • Available information about executive decisions;
  • Rights of access to meetings and information; and
  • Descriptions of exempt information.

The DCLG added that the guidance set out that “filming should be overt, people should be informed at the start of the meeting, and councils should have a clear policy on whether members of the public who may speak at a meeting should have the right to opt-out of filming.

In relation to reporting elections there is some mandatory issues and referrals provided by BBC guideline to their journalists. These are, During the Elections

  • Any programme which does not usually cover political subjects or normally invite politicians to participate must consult the Chief Adviser Politics before finalising any plans to do so.
  • All bids for interviews with party leaders must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics before parties are approached. Offers of such interviews should also be referred before being accepted
  • Any proposal to use a contribution from a politician without an opportunity for comment or response from other parties must be referred to a senior editorial figure and the Chief Adviser Politics. (see 3.5)
  • Any proposal to achieve due impartiality over a series of different programmes across a station or channel must be referred to the Chief Adviser, Politics.
  • The BBC will not commission voting intention polls
  • Any proposal to commission an opinion poll on politics or any other matter of public policy for any BBC service must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics for approval.
  • There will be no online votes or SMS/text votes attempting to quantify support for a party, a politician or a party political policy issue.
  • Any proposal to conduct text voting on any political issue that could have a bearing on any of the elections must be discussed with the Chief Adviser, Politics, as well as being referred to the relevant departmental senior editorial figure and ITACU.
  • The BBC will not broadcast or publish numbers of e-mails, texts or other communications received on either side of any issue connected to the campaign.

On Polling Day

  • No opinion poll on any issue relating to the election may be published.
  • There will be no coverage of any of the election campaigns on any BBC outlet.
  • It is a criminal offence to broadcast anything about the way in which people have voted in the election

All journalists and media professionals have a duty to maintain the highest ethical and professional standards. They should promote within the industry the widest possible dissemination of information about the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and its implications for the exercise of independent journalism. Children have an absolute right to privacy, the only exceptions being those explicitly set out in these guidelines.

Guidelines

Journalists and media organisations shall strive to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct in reporting children’s affairs and, in particular, they shall

  • strive for standards of excellence in terms of accuracy and sensitivity when reporting on issues involving children;
  • avoid programming and publication of images which intrude upon the media space of children with information which is damaging to them;
  • avoid the use of stereotypes and sensational presentation to promote journalistic material involving children;
  • consider carefully the consequences of publication of any material concerning children and shall minimise harm to children;
  • guard against visually or otherwise identifying children unless it is demonstrably in the public interest;
  • give children, where possible, the right of access to media to express their own opinions without inducement of any kind;
  • ensure independent verification of information provided by children and take special care to ensure that verification takes place without putting child informants at risk;
  • avoid the use of sexualised images of children;
  • use fair, open and straight forward methods for obtaining pictures and, where possible, obtain them with the knowledge and consent of children or a responsible adult, guardian or carer;
  • verify the credentials of any organisation purporting to speak for or to represent the interests of children.
  • not make payment to children for material involving the welfare of children or to parents or guardians of children unless it is demonstrably in the interest of the child.

Moreover, Journalists should put to critical examination the reports submitted and the claims made by Governments on implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in their respective countries. They should not consider and report the conditions of children only as events but should continuously report the process likely to lead or leading to the occurrence of these events.

Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (CYPA 1933) gives a general rule that proceedings in the youth court are not open to the public. Although press representatives are permitted to report on proceedings, they are automatically restricted from reporting the identity or any details that would lead to the identity of any child or young person involved in the proceedings. This can be witness, defendant or victim.

This section also applies to;

  • appeals from the youth court, including an appeal by way of case stated;
  • proceedings in the magistrates’ court for breach, revocation or amendment of a Youth Rehabilitation Order and appeals
  • against such proceedings (section 49(2) CYPA 1933).

However this automatic restriction can be lifted of providing that if,

  1. It is appropriate to do so to avoid injustice to the child or young person under 18 (section 49(5) (a) CYPA 1933); or;
  2. It is necessary to dispense with the restriction to apprehend a defendant who is unlawfully at large and has been charged with or has been convicted of a violent or sexual offence or one that is punishable with imprisonment for 14 years or more if committed by a person aged 21 or over.
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