Until 1771, people weren’t allowed to publish detailed reports of what went on in Parliament. Only Hansard, the official record, was allowed to give verbatim coverage of what had been said by representatives. This restriction was lifted, and over time we’ve been given more and more access to the inner workings of the supposed centrepiece of our democratic system culminating in both radio and television eventually getting the right to broadcast the proceedings of Parliament.
Well, most radio and television. You see, there’s a provision in the rules on broadcasting Parliament in the UK that “no extracts from Parliamentary proceedings may be used in comedy shows or other light entertainment such as political satire.” You may have wondered that while American shows such as The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight often use speeches from Congress as part of their reporting, we never get to see Parliament in Have I Got News For You, Screenwipe or The Last Leg and that rule is why.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that the Government has no desire to change this state of affairs, but there is now a power for us to get them to do something about it. Parliament’s petitions site means that if we can get 10,000 people to sign a petition on a subject, the Government has to make a statement on it, and if we can get 100,000 signatures, Parliament will debate the issue.
Wouldn’t it be good to get Parliament to debate whether it should be like everything else in our society and be open to comedy and satire? That’s why I tried to set up a petition on the Parliamentary petitions site to get it overturned. Unfortunately, my petition was rejected, but only because someone else had had the idea first and set one up before me. So click here to go and sign it, then share it around. Let’s see our MPs try and justify why they shouldn’t be open to satire.