Deputies’ dilemma: on or off the microphone?

A compromise agreement which allows speakers at Board of Deputies meetings to “opt-out” of appearing on live internet streams of discussions has been widely criticised.

There was confusion among deputies at Sunday’s plenary meeting when Board president Vivian Wineman and technicians operating the live stream attempted to explain the broadcasting process.

The live broadcasting of meetings was introduced last year. Deputies who do not want to be shown online have the option of speaking at a microphone which cannot be heard outside the meeting room and from a position which is hidden from the camera.

Despite this, the deputies’ views are included in the minutes of the meeting, and can be reported by journalists in attendance.

Around 175 online viewers watched Sunday’s debate, but many reacted angrily after their screens went blank when deputies spoke from the “off camera” mic.

Among those choosing not to be streamed were Jonathan Hoffman and Gary Mond, who proposed the motion opposing the Oxfam link.

Luciana Berger, Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, attended the meeting and tweeted: “Why is this allowed? People speak for their constituency, not as individuals —should be on the record.”

Some deputies have expressed opposition both to live broadcasting of meetings and to minutes being published online, apparently over fears that “enemies of the community” could seize on the material. Others claim community security could be threatened.

There has been a concerted effort in the past 18 months by groups including Change the Board to see younger deputies elected and push for modernisation of the organisation. But critics say the Board executives’ desires to accede to such demands have led to an increase in online bullying and mocking of deputies through Twitter and other social networking sites.

Board chief executive Jon Benjamin admitted live streaming had not been “universally popular”.

The online broadcasts are currently part of a trial. Mr Benjamin said they were “likely to continue, but with refinements”.

Last updated: 12:04pm, January 24 2013