As I’ve blogged at The Guardian today, Tameside Council has started an ‘accreditation’ system for professional journalists who apply to tweet from council meetings.
In the interests of transparency, the full text of the questions I asked and the council’s reply are posted below;
Inquiry to the council first submitted March 1;
I’m looking at how journalists are using Twitter to cover council meetings and am told that you don’t allow this at present. I’d be grateful if you’d give me a little further information on this;
- First, and most importantly, is it true that the council has banned the use of Twitter during council meetings?
- Is this for journalists? Councillors? Members of the public?
- Does the restriction only apply to Twitter – i.e. can other forms of instant messaging, micro-blogging still be used.
- What’s the reason for the ban and on what grounds is it made?
- What steps will be taken to enforce the ban?
The reply from the council sent on March 5:
The Council does not have a specific policy concerning twitter at its meetings but follows the legislation governing the conduct of Council meetings and in particular the recording and transmitting of meetings which are set out in Section 100 (A)(7) of the Local Government Act 1972. Below is a link to relevant part of 1972 Act:
Under the 1972 Act there is no right to attend a council meeting and make a transmission of the meeting whilst it is taking place, or to make recordings of any meeting, this applies to all Local Authorities. Therefore the Council is obliged to consider specific requests to use media such as ‘twitter’. Following requests the Council has authorised the Manchester Evening News, Tameside Advertiser and Tameside Reporter to use twitter in each of the Council meetings they have requested to do so, as duly accredited representatives of the press, as defined in the Local Government Act 1972. Examples of the ‘twitter’ which has taken place at Tameside Council meetings are at the following links:
As you can see the Council allows the use of ‘twitter’ during Council meetings by duly accredited representatives of the press as part of its commitment to increasing involvement in the democratic process. Given that the Council does allow duly accredited representatives of the press to use twitter to cover Council meetings I have not addressed your further questions which are based on the assumption that the Council has banned the use of ‘twitter’.
I’d be interested to hear if any other bloggers have encountered similar issues with access to public meetings.