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    Monday, 22 October 2007

    The civilising force of publicity: televising the courts, coroners and councils

    Today a number of issues revolving around citizen access to public events have come to the fore(and not just the statistic that over 15m watched the English rugby team's long overdue (!) demise at the weekend). First, in conjunction with the local Evening Post, Bristol City Council has agreed to the webcasting of many of its meetings. Reportedly, the first such webcast secured an audience of more than 200 viewers (1 - those interested, and with time on their hands, can catch further installments on the newspaper's webpage, or perhaps they might review the Ofcom uploads on YouTube the most recent of which involves a discussion of the paper on the future of children's programming).

    Such 'attendance' figures far outstrip the paltry numbers in the public gallery at the Diana and Dodi inquest, where - notwithstanding the fairly compliant media coverage - few punters have been enticed through the doors (1). Perhaps, the media are sating appetites, or perhaps its the online updates from the dedicated webpage that are satisfying the ghoulish.

    Most importantly, though, it has been mooted that sittings of the new Supreme Court may be broadcast (1). Justice Secretary Jack Straw is said to favour such a momentous move, although he is opposed to any reemergence of the Victorian 'justice as entertainment' spectacle that might accompany televising of jury trials. A successful pilot project conducted recently involved the recording without broadcast of a number of cases in the Court of Appeal. Moreover, the conclusions of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords - in terms of the bare result of appeals - are already broadcast as part of the proceedings of Parliament. The Supreme Court is scheduled to come into being in October 2009.

    John Battle, Head of Compliance at ITN, will speak at LSE on the theme 'Publicity is the very soul of justice': the courts, the media and open justice in 21st Century Britain' on 28 November.

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