Broadcasting Parliament

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As parliaments pursue efforts to be more open and accountable, many citizens see the broadcasting of the plenary sessions of the parliament as an important, quick and easy step in meeting these goals. In many countries tranisitioning to democracy, either because of conflict, fragility or otherwise, the broadcast of the sessions is quite popular, allowing citizens to observe what their elected officials are doing.

In countries where there elections were previously not legitimate, after a free and fair election, it is important that the citizens see quickly that the work of their government is different from before. This "democratic dividend" is important for a country and its citizens to see that there was something gained by moving to a democratic system. Broadcasting the sessions of the parliament may not be a substantive change in the way the government works, but it is part of a "dividend" as it allows citizens to have live access to what their politicians are doing.

Broadcasting can come in different forms. What is important is that the venue through which sessions are broadcast is accessible to the vast majority of the population. In countries with limited access to electricity or that are less developed, in Africa, parliaments have established their own radio stations to not only broadcast sessions but also other programs that provide further information about the activities of the parliament. 

Where access to television is common, even if in a communal setting, parliaments have decided to broadcast via this medium. If resources are available, particularly in wealthier countries, entire television channels have been dedicated to the parliament.

As the internet and mobile technology become more prevalent, parliaments are attempting to keep up to date with access to information through the internet. Almost all parliaments now have websites. Many have created Facebook pages and groups. No matter the portal, where access to the internet is common, it is an important means of providing significant information to citizens. On the passive side, parliaments can upload documents that then can be accessed by citizens, CSOs and the media.

Some parliaments use the internet to encourage interaction with citizens. Some have created venues for e-petitions and forums for debate on the same. Others have provided space for comments and feedback on draft laws be considered by the parliament. Still other parliaments are broadcasting their sessions on the internet.

No matter the venue, what is critical is that parliaments see the broadcast of its work as a positive step in allowing a more open relationship between the institution and the citizens they represent.