Tuesday, 4 October 2011

I do not watch

very much television. I sometimes manage to watch a programme called "Global Village". It consists of short documentary pieces, often from France or Germany, about life and culture all over the world. I usually manage to watch an international news service and the headlines of a local news service. Once in a while I see something else, most likely a documentary.
I would not want to watch televised court proceedings. I do not believe television cameras have any place in courts.
Yes, courts should be "open". The public should be able to go in and out if they so desire and they respect the proceedings taking place. Most people will never bother but the possibility is one of the things that keeps the system on track.
Television cameras are something quite different. This puts the legal system on show and turns it into something it should not be.
It is often said that the best barristers are also actors. They can feign concern, worry, understanding, misunderstanding, incredulity and anger as well as a range of other emotions. They can, for a short period of time, appear to be experts in all manner of subjects - about which they really know nothing but will have been coached by someone in the field.
It can all be intensely tedious. Moments of high drama are rare although they can occur. With television cameras present barristers will be under increased pressure to "perform".
That however is the least of the problems. Television cameras will show too much. They will show the guilty, the innocent, the accusers, the victims, the duped, those who have misjudged the consequences of their actions, the well intentioned who tried and failed and all other manner of people. They will also show witnesses, bystanders caught up in something they have no wish to be part of, experts called on to assist both prosecution and defence.
Oh yes, they say that the use of cameras in courts will be limited but the reality is that once the cameras are there the potential to show everything is there. Everything is too much, even a little can be too much. Guilt and innocence are by no means always obvious.
We have to be able to trust the legal system to do the right thing as far as possible. Mistakes will always be made and an open court system drastically reduces the potential for abuse. But, an open court system should not become a trial by media. Media powers have to be limited.
The law is not there for our entertainment.


Frances said...

I don't watch television at all, Cat...but, I do, afterwards, watch ABC programmes, and some others on iview.
But, I am very aware of my parents. They did not have a television, and they did not go to the cinema. They were encouraged in this by my dear sister, who saw some sort of intellectual superiority in this.
The result was that my father saw Charlie Chaplin as the only comedian: my mother saw greta Garbo as the world's most beautiful woman.
They missed so much that would have enriched their lives.
I know that I miss much of contemporary culture because I see little or nothing of commercial tv. But, I also know that therefore I am not in a good position to comment on it: I have consigned myself to the past.

JO said...

Here in the UK we don't allow cameras in courts. We just have journalists, and artists - who are allowed to sketch defendants and, occasionally, witnesses. They are too busy doing that to notice the posturing of barristers.

Whirlochre said...

This is one very cogent example of how a little more light can lead to a lot more darkness.