Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Times have changed

Today we expect to be able to monitor our government 24/7. Parliament is available on the web, you can listen to its preceedings by streaming audio, and watch MPs in the chamber during Question Time. Other legislatures around the world are similarly open. But it hasn't always been like that. A story a reader pointed me at today on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution mentioned the UK's "Fourteen Day Rule": issues scheduled for debate in Parliament could not be discussed on television for fourteen days. As one history of British TV notes

As Parliamentary business was only fixed for one week, this rule effectively stopped any topical discussion. In the News was very rarely able to discuss things that were in the news.

The rule eventually collapsed due to the other big event of 1956 - the Suez crisis. But its a sign of how times have changed, and for the better.