Media and publicity protocols
In 2001, the national Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity was amended to include changes in council constitutions introduced by the Local Government Act 2000. Local authorities are required to 'have regard to the provisions' of this Code in the way we approach communication.
The Code gives guidance on communications between communities, individual people and local authorities and aims to foster effective and impartial communication.
Principles and Protocols
The Council undertakes to maintain a full and steady flow of information to the media so as to ensure:
- Continued public awareness of the services provided by the authority and the functions it performs;
- Advance and ongoing publicity on matters of public interest;
Those affected by the Council's decisions, policies and priorities are given the information to understand them and to have a real and informed say about them.
Council Media Liaison Arrangements
The principle of executive decision-making and accountability will be strongly reflected in the Council's media liaison arrangements. In particular:
- Media statements on Executive decisions will be made by the appropriate Executive member (or their substitute), the Leader of the Council or issued on behalf of the entire Executive.
- Interviews on Executive decisions will only be given by the appropriate member of the Executive, their substitute or the Council Leader.
- The Executive will be given relevant support, advice and training to enable them to play a proactive role in presenting issues to the media, explain their work and manage controversial issues covered by the media.
- Where the press office is asked to draft press releases or letters on behalf of the Executive, such releases/letters will be of a factual nature and will contain nothing that could be construed as politically motivated or biased.
- All official Executive press releases will be issued by the Press Office in the standard format.
Overview and Scrutiny Panels
The work of the Overview and Scrutiny panels is an important and integral part of the new political arrangements for the purposes of media liaison. In particular:
- Media statements and interviews on Overview and Scrutiny matters will be made by the convenor of the relevant panel, their substitute or, if appropriate, by the chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board.
- Interviews on Overview and Scrutiny matters will be given by the convenor of the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Panel, their substitute or, if appropriate, by the chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board.
- Members of Scrutiny and overview panels and the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board will be offered relevant support,advice and training to enable them to play a proactive role in presenting issues to the media and explain their work.
- Where a minority report is released by a member or members of an Overview and Scrutiny Panel, media statements will be the responsibility of those issuing the report.
- Where the press office is asked to draft press releases/letters on behalf of Overview and Scrutiny, such releases/letters will be of a factual nature and will contain nothing that could be construed as politically motivated or biased.
- All official Overview and Scrutiny press releases will be issued by the Press Office in the standard format.
The work of local councillors will be recognised as an important contributor to the Council's community leadership role. In particular:
- Advice will be available to local members in promoting local issues through the media - with training made available
- Whilst it is legitimate for the Council to publicise local issues, the Council will not involve itself in any publicity which 'personalises' such issues and thereby appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party
The continuing role of full Council will also be recognised in the Council's communication with the Media. In particular:
- Media statements on policy and other matters which are the remit of full Council (other than the simple reporting of decisions taken) will be made by the Group Leaders
- Media enquiries on such matters will be referred to the Group Leaders
- Group leaders will be given relevant and appropriate support, advice and training to enable them to deal effectively with the media.
- The Executive Leader of the Council will be supported in making best use of the media to promote his or her special role as ambassador for the Council.
Regulatory Bodies and Committees
The work of regulatory bodies and committees (planning, licensing etc) is acknowledged as an important element, and key decisions and issues for decision will be publicised in consultation with relevant spokespersons and lead officers. The general policy of the Council will continue to be one of openness and accessibility towards the media. Although officers will not be allowed to comment to the media on Executive decisions they may continue to speak to the media within clearly defined parameters on operational and other matters. These parameters are:
- Where they have been specifically delegated to speak to the media by the Leader, Executive, relevant Executive Member or Chair of the relevant Overview/Scrutiny panel.
- On matters of clarification with reference to officer reports submitted for consideration to Executive, Scrutiny, full Council or to regulatory committees.
- To explain the operational detail of decisions and policies they are implementing.
- On issues pertaining to the exercise of professional judgement.
- Normally, only First or Second Tier Officers should speak to the media. On non-contentious matters where it would be more appropriate for this to be done by someone with specialist or technical knowledge, Directors/Heads of Service may delegate - but only to named individuals who have undergone media training.
Council Media Liaison
Council Media liaison will normally be carried out via the Council's Communications team or other designated communications staff with specific media liaison responsibilities.
- All the Council's media contact will be professionally managed to meet the communication needs of the Council and of the media.
- To improve the quality of the Council's media output and response, all necessary support/advice/training will be offered. Media liaison will only be carried out by staff who have received training approved by the Communications Manager.
- All news releases will be issued through the press office in standard format, or through designated departmental outlets with specialist media liaison responsibilities.
- Incoming press calls will be fielded initially by the press office or other designated communications staff who will respond on behalf of the Council where appropriate.
- Designated Press Officers are empowered to make statements on behalf of the Council, presenting the Council's position on high profile and other matters and helping build and protect the Council's reputation.
Underpinning all aspects of this protocol is the general principle, enshrined in Government legislation that the Council will not involve itself in any publicity which appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party.
In addition to this general principle is a detailed Code of Recommended Practice on local authority publicity, issued by the Secretary of State, which highlights the factors to be borne in mind when taking decisions on publicity.
Copies of this Code of Practice will be made available to Members and Officers, and will inform any discussion and decision.
Media and publicity protocols