Television courtroom broadcasting has now been permitted into the UK Court of Appeal. As always in these debates, the prototypical argument for television courtroom broadcasting is that it will (always) result in educational effects for the general public.
Really? This argument is put forward even regardless of what form is utilised, which court, what legal issues, etc. The argument assumes the exact same effect for all courts, all cases and all of the different forms of television courtroom broadcasting. Indeed, the Court of Appeal television courtroom broadcasting form appears to differs from that which is permitted in the UK Supreme Court.
Will the Court of Appeal broadcasts really be educational? Indeed, are there educational effects achieved for any television courtroom broadcasting? Have educational effects been proven for any such broadcasting experiment?
If educational effects are not achieved, what does that mean for the success of television courtroom broadcasting projects and experiments? What does television courtroom broadcasting, and the many different forms, actually reveal to the viewing public? Is what is revealed in each different form actually worthwhile? How do the actual end results compare to the purported arguments, opinions and rationales voiced prior to, and justifying, each individual courtroom broadcasting experiment, such as the Court of Appeal? If the justification for Court of Appeal broadcasting is education, how and when will we know that the venture is a success and that educational effects are achieved?
It is fair to suggest that research is needed. This includes baseline research prior to the cameras being introduced. It also includes research during the experimental period. In addition, it can also include research after a trial period has ended. Without considered research it if difficult if not impossible to fully evaluate if any educational effects have been achieved in any given experimental period with a particular form of television courtroom broadcasting.
Those arguing for and those involved in courtroom broadcasting proposals in the UK may legitimately be queries to demonstrate how they plan to properly undertake and document effects research, in particular purported educational effects.
What are the effects of television courtroom broadcasting? There is a lack of sufficient evidence one way or the other. The US Supreme Court has recommended additional research on the matter and also cites a lack of empirical effects research.
What effects research if any exists in relation to the UK Court of Appeal? Has any prior baseline research been undertaken? It is unclear if any research has occurred, is ongoing and is planned for the future.
It is not simply a case of arguing for or against television courtroom broadcasting (without evidence backing the arguments up). In the UK, we must also consider and examine different forms of courtroom broadcasting, camera locations, camera movements, and different camera effects on different courtroom actors. We must engage baseline research to compare the changes introduced. We must also consider and critically assess empirical effects research - including in relation to the Court of Appeal.
Paul Lambert is the author of:
(1) Television Courtroom Broadcasting Effects The Empirical Research and the Supreme Court Challenge, University Press of America, ISBN: 978-0-7618-6005-1, described as "the indispensible read for everyone interested in the topic" (Professor Malcom Feeley, Boalt Hall, University of California Berkeley) and "the most comprehensive research-based assessment of the pros and cons of television broadcasting available on the market today" (Professor Duncan Bloy, University of Cardiff; co-author Hadwin and Bloy: Law and the Media);
(2) Television Courtroom Broadcasting: Distraction Effects and Eye-tracking, Intellect Books, ISBN: 9781841506470.