SINGAPORE: Video recordings of parliamentary proceedings belong to the Government which in turn commissions national broadcaster Mediacorp to cover the sittings and show the footage on various platforms, including free-to-air television as well as on Channel NewsAsia’s Parliament micro-site and its Facebook page.
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat clarified this in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) in response to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera from the Workers’ Party (WP). Mr Perera had asked which entity owns the copyright to the video recordings of parliamentary proceedings.
He also asked if the Ministry would consider removing the copyright if indeed they are protected by one, and make all video footage of parliamentary proceedings freely available for use.
To this, Mr Chee said the public can use the recordings for personal and non-commercial purposes with attribution to Mediacorp. He said the recordings are already used regularly by social media sites and political parties, including the Workers’ Party.
Mr Perera then questioned why Parliament is not given the funding and ability to makes its own live feed and video recordings available with a searchable archive as is the case with countries like Australia, Taiwan and the United States.
Mr Chee said demand for a live feed of proceedings is low.
Reiterating what he had said to WP Member of Parliament Pritam Singh during the Committee of Supply debate earlier this year, Mr Chee said viewers who tune in to a major parliamentary speech like the Budget via a live feed is about 10 per cent compared to what was shown on free-to-air television news that same evening.
EDITING OF VIDEOS
Mr Perera also asked why a corporate entity like Mediacorp is given “so much power to choose what to put up, when to put it up, when to take it down, how to edit it before presentation”.
“I do know from past experience that at times, they are edited and are not archived and made available verbatim,” Mr Perera said.
He gave the example of when a clip of an exchange during the Presidential Elections Act debate earlier this year was put up with “certain bits removed”.
“I actually communicated with Mediacorp and through the correspondence, they made a rectification and put up a different clip, so that was resolved quite amicably,” Mr Perera said.
“But my point is that in general, is it the case that all the clips that are put up are completely free of editing? I think MOS himself conceded that there is a certain degree of editing so those decisions are decisions that involve a high level of discretion. Should they be decisions handled by a private entity or should they be handled by a government body subjected to scrutiny, subjected to questioning?”
On this point, Mr Chee responded: “I want to reiterate the point that when I say editing, my definition of editing may be different from what Mr Perera was alluding to.
“When I said editing, I meant Channel NewsAsia will take the footage and sort them out based on the person who asked the question and the person who answered so as to make it more convenient for viewers to search and access footage.
“The editing that is done is not to remove certain parts of what was said. It is shown as per what is being said in Parliament and what is reflected in Hansard on the microsite and on the video footage on the Facebook page and so on.”
Later during Parliament, Mr Chee clarified the sequence of events relating to the incident Mr Perera mentioned. Mr Chee said Mr Perera had written to Mediacorp on Feb 20 about footage of the debate during the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill on Feb 6.
“I do need to further confirm one point with him which is that his email to Mediacorp was dated Feb 20 and Mediacorp in their reply to Mr Perera said that they had already fixed the problem of the truncated clip on Feb 18,” Mr Chee said.
“In other words, it wasn’t the result of Mr Perera’s email to them. They had confirmed with Mr Perera in their reply that they had already fixed the truncated clip on Feb 18 when he emailed to them on Feb 20. May I please seek clarification from Mr Perera that what I described is factually accurate?”
To this, Mr Perera said while he did not have a specific recollection of dates, he could accept that the correspondence went as Mr Chee had detailed.
“I will need to go back and refer to my archive of emails to verify that that is the case but I’m sure and I’m quite willing to accept what the MOS has said that that is the case,” Mr Perera said.
“I’m sure that will be the case if I verify so I’m quite prepared to accept that fact. And as I said earlier I’m quite prepared to accept the MOS’ assurance that video footage is not, as a matter of policy, edited for whatever reason and that it is uploaded verbatim with the exception of errors or technical glitches that I do accept will happen from time to time.”
(Editor’s note: Mediacorp was made aware of a technical issue with the video in question on Feb 17. Subsequent investigations revealed that Channel NewsAsia’s video server did not render the video properly and the clip appeared truncated. The problem was rectified on Feb 18. Mr Perera approached Mediacorp about the issue on Feb 20.)