Press and Media policy
- The purpose of this policy is to define the roles and responsibilities within the Council for working with the media and deals with the day-to-day relationship between the Council and the media.
- It is not the intention of this policy to curb freedom of speech or to enforce strict rules and regulations. Rather, it provides guidance on how to deal with issues that may arise when dealing with the media.
- The Council is accountable to the local community for its actions and this can only be achieved through effective two-way communications. The media – press, radio, TV, internet – are crucially important in conveying information to the community so the Council must maintain positive, constructive media relations and work with them to increase public awareness of the services and facilities provided by the Council and to explain the reasons for particular policies and priorities.
- It is important that the press have access to the Clerk/ Members and to background information to assist them in giving accurate information to the public. To balance this, the Council will defend itself from any unfounded criticism and will ensure that the public are properly informed of all the relevant facts using other channels of communication if necessary.
The Legal Framework
- The law governing communications in local authorities can be found in the Local Government Acts 1986 and 1988. The Council must also have regard to the governments Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.
- The Parish Council’s adopted Standing Orders should be adhered to.
Contact with the media
- The Clerk and Members should always have due regard for the long-term reputation of the Council in all their dealings with the media.
- Confidential documents, exempt Minutes, reports, papers and private correspondence should not be leaked to the media. If such leaks do occur, an investigation will take place to establish who responsible and appropriate action was taken.
- When the media wish to discuss an issue that is, or is likely to be, subject to legal proceedings then advice should be taken from the Council’s solicitor before any response is made. Whenever possible any information given to the press shall be given in writing so as not to leave interpretation open to misunderstanding and misreporting.
- There are a number of personal privacy issues for the Clerk and Members that must be handled carefully and sensitively. These include the release of personal information, such as home address and telephone number (although Member contact details are in the public domain); disciplinary procedures and long-term sickness absences that are affecting service provision. In all these and similar situations, advice must be taken from the Clerk before any response is made to the media.
- When responding to approaches from the media, the Clerk or the Chairman and Vice Chairman are authorised to make contact with the media.
- Statements made by the Chairman/Vice Chairman and the Clerk should reflect the Council's opinion.
- Other Councillors can talk to the media but must ensure that it is clear that the opinions given were their own and not necessarily those of the Council.
- There are occasions when it is appropriate for the Council to submit a letter, for example to explain important policies or to correct factual errors in letters submitted by other correspondents. Such letters should be kept brief and balanced in tone and correspondence should not be drawn out over several weeks. All correspondence must come from the Clerk.
Attendances of media at council meetings
- The Local Government Act 1972 requires that agendas, reports and minutes are sent to the media on request.
- The media are encouraged to attend Council meetings and seating and workspace will be made available.
- Any filming or taping of Council proceedings by the media must be with prior notice to the Clerk and Chairman of the meeting (see Standing Orders).
- The purpose of a press release is to make the media aware of a potential story, to provide important public information or to explain the Council’s position on a particular issue. It is the responsibility of the Clerk and Members to look for opportunities where the issuing of a press release may be beneficial.
- The Clerk or any Member may draft a press release, however they must all be issued by the Clerk in order to ensure that the principles outlined in section three (Legal Framework) are adhered to, that there is consistency of style across the Council and that the use of the press release can be monitored.
- This policy relates to the creation and management of a Facebook Page by the Parish Council.
- The aim of this policy is to set down rules and regulations to ensure proper use of the page.
- The aim is to use the Facebook page to interact in a stronger way with the Parish’s people, advertising events and other projects of the Parish Council.
- The page will be created and managed by the Parish Council Clerk and one other member as chosen by the Clerk. No other Councillors will have access to the page for administration purposes.
- The page would be set up using the Parish Clerk’s email address.
- Only information regarding the Parish Council should be entered as part of the Biography.
- The account should only link to pages of a local government organisation or organisations/causes relating to the Parish.
- No religious or political views should be expressed under the biography.
- Friends will not be allowed to post new topics to the wall – This will prevent others placing topics on games etc. to the Parish Council’s account for all to see. However, friends would be able to comment on wall topics created by the Parish Council.
- Posts on the page would be available for all uses of Facebook to see.
- The logo will be the profile picture for everyone to see.
- Photo Albums will be open for everyone to view.
- Photo’s uploaded to the album will not have direct view of any child’s face without the prior consent of their guardian.
- The page will be maintained by the Parish Clerk and one other member as chosen by the Clerk, who will remove messages from the wall which include:
- Abusive language content
- Which may cause offence to a specific group of people eg comments on a person’s sexuality, sexist comments, racial comments etc.
- Which contain potentially libellous comments.
- If any points raised on the wall are relevant and need to be discussed by the Council then if necessary further information will be sought before bringing it to the Council.
- Event dates will be created for any Parish Council event taking place.
- People would be encouraged to be friends of the Parish Council
- If friends are repeatedly abusing the Parish Council’s wall then they will be removed from the friends list and unable to post to the wall. Instances which would involve removal from the friends list include repeated:
- Posting with abusive language content
- Posting comments which may cause offence to a specific group of people eg comments of a person’s sexuality, sexist comments, racial comments etc
- Posting potential libellous comments
- Private messages will only be sent in response to anyone sending an initial private message to the Parish Council account. The response will ask the person to email the Council with the request for comment and the office email will be provided.
- This policy will be a living document and will be able to be altered by the Parish Clerk to allow immediate action should the unexpected arise. This will be key to overcoming teething problems that have not already been identified. Changes to the policy will be highlighted at the next Council meeting to keep Members abreast of the changes.