It was good of the mayor Sharon Massey to allow ‘filming’ of last night’s
meeting before the proposal to allow it had been formally adopted and I decided
in advance I would accept all the conditions that were likely to be imposed. I’ve never
been convinced that recording council meetings is a worthwhile exercise; I can see
it might stop the sort of lying that followed
June’s Public Realm meeting, but
beyond that I really can’t see the point. A few photographs might be nice.
Recently the council has been providing a desk for me to sit at and write my notes and most of the time I don’t use it because you cannot see who is speaking from it. Last night they insisted I did if I was going to take photographs. The desk is so far offset from the centre of procedings that another couple of feet, literally, would put it outside the chamber. It is lower down than all the councillors, it is lower than almost all members of the public and affords a view only of councillors backs of heads and backsides. I could have taken a telephoto shot of councillors John Fuller, Katie Perrior and Chris Taylor but chose not to. No one else was within vision.
Poking long lenses into people’s faces is not something I want to do in what is after all their domain. I asked to go to the back of the public gallery which is up high and provides a good view but permission was refused. I was also told that standing up from my lowly position might be interpreted as disrupting the meeting.
I grabbed two shots of the mayor, one of her entering the chamber and another leaving it, but even that was less than satisfactory as hidden behind the door I had no forewarning of her approach. As a result the picture of her is not too bad but it is hardly a credit to the photographer.
The audio recording could have been better too. I chose to record four channels simultaneously. Two mics pointing in the general direction of the councillors’ behinds (which may be appropriate) and two picking up local sounds. A loudspeaker was not far away. The result has something of the bathroom about it. If I repeat the exercise I'll have to take a blanket to put over the table and I had to take quite enough clobber already. Just like I thought, a pencil and notebook is so much easier.
If the DCLG is reading this I would say that Bexley council may be within the letter of the law but not the spirit. Filming from a position that provides no view is not a lot of use. When I brought my concerns to the appropriate officer at the end of the meeting he said "but the press always sits there” to which I replied “yes, but they have never been able to take photographs before”. The penny showed every sign of dropping. Maybe things will improve later.