Vancouver city council unanimously passes motion on media access
A Non-Partisan Association motion calling for a report on Vancouver's media access policies was approved unanimously by city council today (September 24).
The motion, which passed with some amendments, calls for staff to outline the city's current policies on media access to department heads, state clear policies on response times for media requests, and to look at “global best practices”.
“The media obviously have a role to play in how we communicate whatever it is we want to communicate at city hall,” said NPA councillor George Affleck as he introduced the motion.
“I think it’s a matter of providing clarification on what the processes are, and what we as best practices can be doing in order to provide proper and concise information in order for us to communicate to the people of this city."
Affleck also called for the city to look at communications department costs, and at how the municipality is getting its message out.
“Maybe we should go back to empowering staff in the departments to be able to communicate quickly when questions arise, specifically to reports,” said Affleck. “It keeps the politics away from the issues that I think are important here at city hall, and simply gets the story out.”
The NPA councillor referred to what he called a negative movement in governments around the world to a “branding style of communicating”.
“Where it’s not about communicating everything and all the messages that you need to communicate, it’s about communicating specific messages,” he stated. “I don’t think it’s a positive approach to communicating. I think we need to be clear and transparent about what we are doing at city hall.”
Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer spoke in support of what she referred to as the “fact-based, evidence approach” of the motion, and made two amendments. They called for staff to also report back on policies relating to elected officials criticizing staff in the media, and to examine the city’s legal responsibilities to city staff who are libeled in the media.
Green party councillor Adriane Carr also registered her support for Affleck’s motion, and added an amendment to request policies on media access to all city staff.
“My concern…was really the feeling that our staff may not feel trusted, and I worry about that a great deal,” she said. “We should be trusting our staff to have conversations with media that are entirely professional, and have the city’s best interests at heart.”
The motion approved today calls for staff to report back within three months.