Live-streaming select committees

Today, we take a step in the right direction for parliamentary openness and transparency, with the start of a trial of live-streaming public sessions of Select Committees.

Select Committees are the engine room of the legislative process and play a key role in holding ministers and departments to account. It’s also an area where MPs often work together to improve laws or conduct inquiries with less of the theatrics of the debating chamber. Unlike Parliament that is broadcast on TV, online and radio proceedings of select committees have not been.

Last term the cross-party Parliamentary Internet Forum, comprising of Clare Curran, Nikki Kaye and I lobbied successfully then-Speaker Lockwood Smith to live-stream Select Committees. It’s fantastic that Kiwis can from today finally tune-in and watch a Select Committee. For interested observers who can now watch online it may save a plane ticket or drive across town to watch the proceedings. For submitters interested to see the cases made by other submitters they can now watch in the comfort of their home. For students learning about the legislative process they will now be able to watch in real time an actual hearing of evidence.

This is a fairly limited pilot program, so while only two Select Committee rooms, with one static camera each will be used, I am hopeful the public and MPs can support the trial so we can get more professional and easy-to-watch streaming in the future. Hopefully soon we can also make progress on captioning of the Parliament TV broadcast so deaf Kiwis will be able to follow the House. Digital tools like this are a great way to open up the legislative process and for Kiwis to see their elected representatives in action.



7 Comments Posted

  1. That’s an interesting idea, but it’d need to be developed with caution. With only a fixed amount of FreeView broadcast time and without moderation, I can easily imagine all available time being filled for days or weeks at a time by requests from a small number of people (whether they be annoying idiots or genuinely interested in what they’ve requested), making it very difficult for others to use the service.

  2. What I’d really (, really) like is a website interface so you can request either parliament of select committee replays, whcih can be shown on the unused time on the parliament freeview channel. So you go to the website, make your request, you are given a screening time when it’ll be on. Set DVR to record and watch at leisure.

  3. Thanks, Gareth. That’s great to hear about. I’d also like to see Select Committees streamed directly through Parliament TV, certainly if they’re already being filmed (for those which are). What’s the point of having the TV channel sitting there for 99% of the time advertising when Parliament will next be in session?

    On a related note in local politics, I notice that the Wellington City Council recently ran an experiment of streaming the swearing-in ceremony, with a possible follow-up of streaming Council meetings and (hopefully) similar activities.

    The $5000 price tag for that experiment received the typical criticism in the Stuff comments thread, but in my opinion this is an awesome development if it follows through.

    Having council meetings streamed, making it actually possible for large numbers of people to observe what happens, how stuff works and how actual councillers interact with each other, would make all of that much more accessible to the public. When controversial and popular issues come up, it will make it possible for people to see them directly. It will also make it possible for journalists to report on incidents after they’ve happened, without having to guess in advance which meetings might involve interesting developments.

    Much of the criticism around low voter turn-out in local elections has been around people not know much about, or being able to get good info on local politics generally. Personally I think that this type of idea, of helping people to more actively see what happens in local politics, is a much more positive step towards addressing causes of apparent dis-interest. Certainly more than I see as token efforts to attack the symptoms, like enabling internet voting.

  4. Thought it meant on TV Parliament, too bad we oldies do not understand ‘real time Internet stream’ perhaps someone may offer free lessons on how to connect on our computer screens.
    However, it is a start of more open government, may it gain more coverage.

  5. Good to hear, but not all of us have the technology to watch ‘real-time’ internet streams.. will they consider replaying it on Parliamentary TV (freeview) ?


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