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Evidence of meeting #21 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was camera.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Audrey O'Brien  Clerk of the House of Commons
Louis Bard  Chief Information Officer, House of Commons
Michel Bédard  Committee Researcher

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I just want to go back to one other thing.

Madam O'Brien, you were talking about the wide-angle shots. I know that it's supposed to be just for question period and you're not supposed to have reaction shots and the like. Is that being religiously adhered to? Maybe I'm getting comments from some of our members that are incorrect, but it seemed that the wide-angle shots were being employed a little bit more frequently than just in question period and votes, where if a single member is standing up to debate and there are a bunch of empty chairs around him there's a wide-angle shot that illustrates this. I think it concerns a lot of members that if this is what's happening it doesn't look good, frankly, for Parliament.

Can you confirm that during debates, during government orders, when individuals are standing up it's still single torso and up shots, or are they using wide-angle shots for that as well?

11:50 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

I can confirm that's what they should be doing. I think from time to time, if there's been a switch in who's speaking at the last minute, there may be a certain time when the camera is trying to find whoever is getting up. That might happen, and there might be errors that slip in from time to time. But we have to say sometimes to the frustration of our broadcasting team—which is an excellent team—we discourage any artistic impulses that would have them deviate from the torso close-up shot that's the usual.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Does the broadcaster get a list in advance, showing who is going to be speaking on a particular bill or SO-31, that type of thing, so they can prepare?

11:50 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

We try to share the information we have. For example, in question period, we know who is going to question, but we don't know who is going to answer. That's always a bit of a challenge. Then, depending on the body language of the person answering, they face the Speaker, or they face the questioner.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I think it would be a good idea if you could put a red light on the camera. I'll give you an example.

As you know, we have a number of members on the opposition side of the House in the far corner. During SO-31s, a member came to me yesterday. I always advise them to face one direction when they get up to speak, so that the camera will find them and then they can just keep looking in that direction. Unfortunately, this member is right in the corner and he faces the Speaker when he delivers his SO-31s. I guess his wife, or whoever might be watching these things, mentioned that all she could see was his profile. Nobody could see his face full on. I said it was probably because the camera doesn't swing around far enough to get into that far corner.

But if there had been a red light on a camera, the member would have known which direction to face so his wife could see him better. I think it's probably a good suggestion. If you could let us know if that's possible, I think it would be helpful for all members.

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

I'll certainly do that, because it's a concern, and I can see where it would be practical to know about the cameras.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you.

That's all I have.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

Madame Latendresse.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have a question regarding one of the guidelines that apply to deliberations. It says that "if an exchange between members occurs too quickly and does not permit normal camera switching, a wider shot may be permitted which incorporates those involved in the exchange, including the chair." I would like further explanations on this guideline. In fact, I wonder under what circumstances there may be quick exchanges between two members. Perhaps you could explain the use of wider shots.

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

This can occur, for instance, during the 30-minute period following a time allocation motion. A very quick question may be asked, followed by a brief answer, and then back. So, there is no time, really, to simply cover the member who is speaking. That is where you would use a wider shot.

The same applies in evening debates, for instance when the leader of the opposition asks for a special debate to be held in the evening on budgetary matters. There can, from time to time, be rapid exchanges between members.

That is done to ensure that, at the very least, the member speaking is seen on camera. We would not want to miss that opportunity.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

So, there would be a wider angle used to cover several members.

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

That is correct, precisely. We try to avoid that, as much as possible, outside of question period. However sometimes it may be more important for the person to be in the frame, at the very least.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Very well. That is what I wanted to know.

Thank you.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

If no one else has any more, I have some through my mother, but I'll wait till after.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Laurie and I are going to share.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Excellent.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

This is a dialogue. Do you have any recommendations on how the sessions could be done better? As the expert, what do you have to say?

11:55 a.m.

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

Things are going very well. In general, the overall feedback is very good. We understand the element. It's always a challenge to have members understand the rules of broadcasting, to understand that they are on camera. At the debriefing of new members of Parliament, we say this a lot: you are on camera, and you need to be.... If I have to focus on the chair and the member behind is sleeping, there's not much I can do, unless we put an electric shock on the chair. Members are very visible.

We've tried to bring in a few flexibilities. We have to adjust the quality based on industry standards. I think we've maintained the standards. All of that is going very well. The public is looking for more information. But it's something that can evolve very slowly. As to making a better program, I think you people are good customers and you do quite a good job to give us a prime show.

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

If I might just add, one of the things as well that would make for much better television, if I may say from my aged perspective, is if members—and I know how hard-pressed you are for time.... In interventions where members don't read a text, I think it's much livelier. People who are watching feel much more engaged. That, automatically, is something that I think makes for way better television. It's certainly a difficult thing to ask of members who are supposed to be covering so many different things, but I'll just slide that in.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

I have a question on budget and compensation. You talked about the broadcasters liking your coverage and footage. I would like to know what the budget was for the broadcast department and whether that was in any way compensated by the networks. Is it a cost recovery type of thing, or how does that work?

Noon

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

No, my first comment is that we have to realize that the CPAC agreement is the best one in the world. It costs Parliament zero dollars. It's a consortium of cable companies that pays for that. If tomorrow CPAC were to shut down its services and I had to put something else in place, we're talking about $10 million per year to offer the same service.

In terms of the broadcasters that have access to Parliament Hill, we have agreements because we provide all the connectivity to make sure we provide quality content. For that they've paid for the investment. But there's no cost recovery for Parliament. In terms of what we do here, it's salary for our team, maintenance of the equipment, and all of that stuff. It's a very basic budget.

Noon

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Arguably we're kind of in the best of both worlds, because we basically control the members—that is to say, the House controls the guidelines under which the broadcasting is actually done. Then CPAC and the consortium look after the distribution, which is the really big and tricky thing.

Noon

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

I think Laurie had a....

February 14th, 2012 / noon

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

I have a quick one with respect to archives. How long is this stuff archived? If I wanted to go back and get somebody's speech ten years ago, is that possible?

Noon

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

We have an agreement with Library and Archives Canada, but the entire broadcast, gavel to gavel, is not retained automatically. There's selectivity, because you end up with too much. I think digitization is going to help that, but we have to see.