You report (29 January) that pressure from broadcasters has led to a review of regulations concerning filming in and from courts. James Wolffe QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, is quoted saying that “public understanding of the work of the courts…will be enhanced by these proposals”.
There is little evidence to support this worthy aspiration. Introduction of televised reports from Westminster has not noticeably promoted better understanding and appreciation of that institution among the public.
Establishment of the Supreme Court has not been accompanied by any systematic research evaluation of that court’s work, nor does there seem to be any plan to evaluate more television from certain proceedings in Scottish courts (compare the cunctatory approach to the more beneficial prospects of shale fuel extraction – attended by suitable regulation).
Where one sees that “broadcasters” have favoured the foot in the door – for allegedly educative and/or “modernising” purposes – one should beware that they are not really after a second stage of more “juicy” proceedings to broadcast.
One major danger is that the TV process is necessarily selective and abbreviated; viewers do not realise (as readers of press reports are more likely to do) how a report’s “flavour” answers to audience gathering considerations rather than to legal validity.
Caution, indeed reticence, in this case is the best option.
Mallory Wober PhD
(previously deputy head of audience research, ITC)
Fellow, British Psychological Society