I’ve contacted elected members today to share my thoughts on debate around our draft Media Protocols this week.
I’m also reaching out to local media to share a little more background about how the protocols came to be – it’s hard to do that just in short media responses.
I would like to make it really clear that the intent behind the protocols is to support councillors and offer some help for those that need it when talking to media. In no way do the protocols stop councillors sharing their views and speaking with the media and public.
The media protocols were developed based on the recommendations of the Thomson report and the Action Plan that was prepared to address the issues raised. Elected members voted unanimously on both of those documents, so it was at their direction the protocols have been prepared.
The draft protocols have been prepared by an elected member-led working group; they are the result of discussion between elected members and staff with the aim of agreeing a supportive, positive way of working together.
They do not, in any way, stop elected members sharing their views and opinions.
The Thomson report noted that “The use of media to try to influence outcomes by creating public pressure is a matter that many councillors commented negatively on”. It went on to note that councillors are free to speak to media, however that did not preclude an agreed methodology or approach to media interactions.
It’s important to recognise the power that the media wield. Like it or not, the media will focus on any arguments and disagreements of elected members if they chose to voice them. The protocols are positive, supportive and intended to help elected members.
What happens now is up to the council to decide, and they may wish to revisit the protocols in an effort to seek a way forward agreed by all. Ultimately, the intention was to come up with a way of working with the media that made all elected members comfortable and that guided our public conversations. There was opportunity to amend the protocols at this week’s council meeting; that opportunity was not taken, but it doesn’t mean we can’t look to amend the protocols to get to a stage where we all agree.