YouTube parliament ban 'could be lifted'

Monday, March 22 2010, 11:30 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

The ban on video clips of sessions in the House of Commons being broadcast on YouTube could be lifted in the coming weeks, it has emerged.

Current regulations stop the Google-owned YouTube or any other website, including newspapers, from carrying video footage of parliamentary proceedings.

Under the approach, the public are forced to rely on news clips from the main broadcasters or material hosted on the Westminster or BBC Parliament sites.

MPs are allowed to place clips of their own speeches on YouTube, but they have to ensure that third parties cannot embed the material.

The ban was implemented to protect copyright of the footage, which is jointly owned by broadcasters and the Palace of Westminster.

According to The Guardian, MPs are also wary that users could "mash up" parliamentary sessions to make the speakers appear foolish.

In 2007, a clip of Gordon Brown picking his nose during prime minister's question time was viewed almost 470,000 times on YouTube, despite the authorities trying to get it removed.

Liberal Democrat MP for Dumbarton East Jo Swinson has actively campaigned for a relaxation of the ban, which she describes as "absolutely nuts".

She added: "What we are told is that officials are concerned about video being taken out of context or abused - but you can do that with the text of Hansard if you wanted, so the ruling is not consistent."

The BBC also wants a relaxation of the rules and has been leading a group of broadcasters lobbying the government to change its stance.

Talks with the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit - the organisation responsible for licensing parliamentary footage - have been ongoing for the past 18 months.

Should the BBC succeed in its aim, third-party websites would be able to embed video clips of any proceedings in parliament, including prime minister's question time.

However, the corporation declined to comment on the plans as negotiations are understood to be at a sensitive juncture.