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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title IV - Making Parliamentary Information Easily Accessible

Sec. 30. Providing Live and On-Demand Broadcasts and Streaming

Efforts shall be made to provide citizens with real-time and on-demand archival access to parliamentary proceedings through radio, television and the Internet.

Recognizing the limited space of public galleries and the value of providing access to live coverage of the plenary, an increasing number of parliaments have sought to enhance their public outreach by broadcasting coverage of sessions by radio, television and the Internet.   The value of broadcasting is recognized by both SADC-PF and COPA.[1] According to SADC-PF, “Through broadcasts of plenary and committee meetings, citizens shall have access to parliamentary business using multi-media including the Internet, and live television and radio.” The IPU recommends that parliaments include on their webpages “the capacity to broadcast or webcast” proceedings or other events. As most working-age citizens are unable to view proceedings live, the IPU further suggests parliaments create an electronic archive that permits on-demand viewing.[2] This is common practice in countries like Brazil and the U.S. whose parliamentary websites offer this service.[3] In countries where on-demand capability or adequate searchability of video content has not yet been implemented by parliaments, PMOs are increasingly stepping in to fill in the gap. For example, the organization Fundacja ePaństwo in Poland created a website, Sejmometr, which allows video of parliamentary proceedings provided by the Polish Parliament to be searched by topic and speaker.[4]

According to the World e-Parliament Report 2010, webcasting is currently used by 43% of parliaments (23% are considering developing this capability),[5] while 72% of parliaments provide some ICT support for recording parliamentary activity.[6] In Bulgaria, it is standard that most sessions of parliament are broadcast on television and radio.[7] In Ghana, parliament created a public-private partnership with a television station to cover both plenary sessions and committee hearings live. To further extend availability to citizens, these broadcasts are available throughout the country at regional resource centers.[8] Countries like Portugal, Korea, Brazil, and the United States maintain TV channels specifically for the broadcast of parliamentary activities which are also streamed live on their parliamentary websites.[9] The U.S. Congress also provides “a near real-time text synopsis of House actions that runs 10-15 minutes after the actual event, and a next-day summary of the actions of both chambers in the Daily Digest section of the Congressional Record along with the verbatim text of debate in the House and Senate sections.”[10] Less common, but present in such countries as Sweden, Canada and the United States, are archives of past webcasts of parliamentary activity.[11]


[1] COPA, The Contributions of Parliaments to Democracy: Benchmarks for the Parliaments of the Americas, §4.2.4.1; SADC PF, Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa, §6.4.4.

[2] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §3.2.

[3] See, for example, the website of the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk at http://houselive.gov/ or the website of the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil at http://www2.camara.gov.br/atividade-legislativa/webcamara/ao-vivo/transmissoes-do-dia. Both accessed 6/25/2012.

[4] See http://www.sejmometr.pl/. Accessed 6/25/2012.

[5] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 29.

[6] Ibid., p. 182.

[7] Center for Liberal Strategies, Open Parliaments: Transparency and Accountability of Parliaments in South-East Europe, p. 14.

[8] Ibid., p. 26.

[9] IPU, Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Good Practice, p. 54, 56.

[10] Jeffrey Griffith, Beyond Transparency: New Standards for Legislative Information Systems, Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, June 2006, p. 98.

[11] University of Westminster, Parliamentary Web Presence: A Comparative Review, pp. 10-11, published in the Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on e-Government (ICEG 2006), 12-13 October 2006, p. 8.