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TDs threatened with sanction for using Oireachtas video on social media

Opposition TDs have described as “farcical” a reminder from the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl about the use of Oireachtas video feeds.

The email, sent on Monday afternoon, told members that the use of the publicly available feeds is conditional and that they could face legal action if they misuse it.

It refers to the Rules of Coverage and Oireachtas (Broadcast Proceedings) Public Sector Information License, which set out the rules regarding the use of the video feeds, which broadcast all proceedings in the Dáil, Seanad and Oireachtas committees.

Many politicians use clips from the feeds on their social media feeds to highlight their contributions in the chambers, though Mr Ó Fearghaíl’s letter points out that these often breach the rules laid out in the documents.

The Ceann Comhairle’s summary of the rules states that:

  • Footage of proceedings should not be used in party political broadcasts or party/members campaign videos
  • Proceedings should not be used in a manner that may mislead as to the context, timing or intent of the contribution being shown
  • Broadcast footage should not be edited with visual or audio effects in any way, re-sized, or have graphics superimposed over it – including party logos
  • The Houses of the Oireachtas logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen should not be obscured or cut out

The email, seen by the Irish Examiner, goes on to say that the “ultimate sanction for those who breach the conditions of use is enforcement of our copyright” or legal action.

“For members and/or parties to misuse our content would undermine our open data policy and the promotion of the proceedings across platforms. In order to ensure fair usage of the material by broadcasters and the general public, the same standards must apply to all of us. I trust all concerned will appreciate our position in this regard.”

Labour whip Duncan Smith said that he has asked for clarity on the rules, saying that restricting the use of the videos would limit the ability of politicians to communicate with constituents.

“I have written back to the Ceann Comhairle seeking clarity on what was sent because we only have one source for video of our contributions to our national parliament.

“Social media is a big part of how we communicate these days, so I was surprised to receive the letter and I await clarity.”

Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon said that any attempt to limit use of publicly-funded video of the national parliament would be “farcical”.

“I have an obligation to keep in touch with my electorate to demonstrate my work in the national parliament and social media is the most expedient way to do this.

“I think the Ceann Comhairle or whoever is directing them needs to bring themselves into the 21st century. That is a farcical suggestion, with respect, and it’s not a diktat I will comply with.”

His party colleague Holly Cairns said that a discussion on the rules surrounding use of the video would be useful.

“If the rules have been broken, it’s worth asking if the rules are right. It would be interesting to hear the Ceann’s opinion on this.”

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly said that the context around the email was needed.

“It would be helpful if we knew what prompted this email, or if the Ceann Comhairle was to meet with the party whips or other representatives from the parties.

“Communication is at the heart of what we do as parliamentarians, we need to reflect that outwards on what’s happening within the Dáil chamber.”

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