Guarding the House videotapes | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guarding the House videotapes

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 9:32 AM

Roby Brock and his partners have produced a report on the House policy on use of the trove of new video and audio recordings compiled under the House of Representatives laudable and wholly wonderful expansion of broadcast of committee and chamber proceedings.

The House has adopted a rule that this material cannot be used for political, partisan, campaign or commercial purposes.

Can they do that? A very interesting legal question. It's hard to believe that, if the House really clamps down on use of the material, that it can withstand the test. Although remember that the legislature exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act in many respects.

There's legal and there's right. Seems simple to me. The public paid for these invaluable records of public proceedings. They should be made available to all on an equal basis and they may be used just about however the recipient intends. I think there might be some room to prevent strict commercial use — resale of the tapes produced for and by the public.


UPDATE: I've posted a video used against Mike Huckabee by political opponents in the 2008 presidential race. I think it encapsulates why House members fear use of the video in political campaigns. Huckabee's recitation of all the tax increases he supports is powerful TV imagery.

Bill Stovall, former House speaker and now staff, claims credit for the language. He said the interest was in preventing use of publicly financed material for private or commercial use. I get that. Problem is that declaring political speech as "profiting" is a reach, in my view. Stovall contends Texas has operated this way for years. And another caller says the Arkansas rule mirrors congressional rules against use of film shot on the floor in partisan outside uses. Stovall said the policy will be reviewed and if there's agreement that there are constitutional problems, it will be rescinded. I said it would be easy to have a House rule by which members agreed not to use the material in their campaigns. True, Stovall said, but it wouldn't be "fair" to let opponents use the material if incumbents cannot. I'm not sure I see it that way, given incumbents' many advantages, including retention of excess campaign money. They are free to use the words they speak. Why not the images of them speaking the words?

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