History of Legislative TV Services
Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to experiment with televised proceedings. Despite this trail blazing interest, Nova Scotia was one of the last provinces to televise the proceedings of the Legislative House of Assembly on a regular basis. Both full press access to the House and an in-house broadcasting system would take almost 30 years to become fully realized.
Early televised proceedings
The road to televised proceedings began in the 1960s when, “at the time of the opening, [the House] had the good fortune to be on television” (Debates, February 26, 1963, p. 294). At this time, only the Speech from the Throne was filmed. From March 22 to April 8, 1971, the House allowed full television coverage of the budget deliberations. After the three-week trial period, the experiment was abandoned. The heat, glare, and intrusiveness of equipment had a negative impact on debate. Furthermore, some members thought their concerns with editorial decisions outweighed the increased level of public interest and awareness in current affairs. Broadcasting the proceedings was rarely discussed in the House of Assembly over the next decade.
Press seeks access
The press began seeking access again in the early 1980s. Some members read resolutions in the House in support of the press, requesting access so they could record key orders of business for use in news broadcasts and stock footage. By the mid- to late 1980s, pressure from members grew in the House. Members called for full, province-wide coverage of both House and committee proceedings. Special committees of the House began to examine the costs and consider the question of coverage, including the installation and use of an in-house “visual electronic Hansard system,” under the control of the House of Assembly.
While the House evaluated options for an in-house recording and broadcasting system, the press went to the courts seeking the right to film within the assembly chamber. The initial decision and subsequent Charter appeal allowed limited access to the press, but was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada returned control over access to proceedings to the House in 1993.
Legislative Television established
On the first day of the 1991 sitting, the House unanimously passed a resolution “authorizing the recording on film and the televising of its proceedings by cameras installed under the direction of the Special Committee on Rules and Procedures … and that the mechanics and control of installation, recording and publishing be within the province of His Honour, the Speaker.” (Debates, 1991, p. 5171). On this day, both the press and the new legislative television system were recording. The broadcast signal for the in-house “electronic Hansard” system, now known as Legislative Television, was switched on as soon as the resolution passed. Due to cable network limitations, the broadcast was initially available only to cable subscribers in Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford on the Provincial Educational Channel. Eventually, as cable companies upgraded their infrastructure, the broadcast became available to cable subscribers in the rest of the province. Since its inception, Legislative Television and Broadcasting Services has evolved with technological change and user needs.
February 26, 1963
Television cameras are permitted in the gallery to record the Speech from the Throne, making Nova Scotia one of the first provinces in Canada to experiment with televised proceedings.
March 15, 1971
Premier announces an agreement between party leaders to open proceedings to the press for an unlimited amount of television and radio coverage, in cooperation with networks.
March 18, 1971
House of Assembly unanimously passes a resolution supporting a three-week trial, with broadcast mechanics and control under the authority of the Speaker. Two cameras are allowed in the gallery, with no equipment allowed on the floor of the House. Radio signal is provided by the Hansard audio system.
Access continues to be requested through motions in the House and calls for action from the press. Committees review the issues.
April 28, 1988
Consultant’s report on the provision of legislative television, commissioned by the Speaker, is delivered. The report proposed constructing a control room on the second floor next to the Legislative Library annex. The Speaker decides that further study is required to determine if a less expensive means exists to produce an “electronic Hansard.”
Architect’s report, commissioned by the Speaker, concludes that the use of hand-held recording equipment in the galleries is impractical, and possibly dangerous, and that the presence of recording equipment would lead to a lack of decorum and impinge on members’ parliamentary privilege.
Special Committee on House of Assembly Matters passes a motion recommending the installation of a visual electronic Hansard to record the proceedings of the House of Assembly. The Chair negotiates on feasibility with television networks based on the system used in the UK Parliament. Networks reject a proposal for television coverage under supervision of the House.
April 3, 1990
Visual electronic Hansard system proposal is submitted by the Speaker in a report to the Special Committee on House of Assembly Matters. The report recommends that a system be installed to provide a professional signal at a reasonable cost, with minimal impact on proceedings. A motion to adopt the proposed financing scenario is defeated by the Committee.
May 25, 1990
Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, on an action filed by the press in January, rules that the press have the right to televise the proceedings of the House of Assembly with unobtrusive cameras. This decision is appealed by the Speaker in June.
September 5, 1990
Speaker presents a modified version of his April 1990 proposal. The Special Committee unanimously accepts the Speaker’s recommendation to implement an electronic Hansard system for the 1991 legislative session.
March 21, 1991
Court of Appeal decision affirms the right of the press to record proceedings.
May 10, 1991
House passes a resolution authorizing the recording on film and the televising of its proceedings. Equipment, mechanics, filming, and broadcasting are under the jurisdiction of the Speaker.
Broadcast of legislative proceedings becomes available to cable subscribers in the Halifax Metropolitan Area and Legislative Television Broadcast and Recording Services is established.
Television guidelines drafted quickly the night before, in consultation with the press, are passed.
At the request of the Speaker’s Office, the Department of Transportation and Communications reports on the policy, regulatory, and technical issues associated with province-wide broadcasting of legislative proceedings.
January 21, 1993
Supreme Court of Canada upholds the right of parliamentarians to control the use of cameras in legislatures. There are no changes to access in Nova Scotia.
Proceedings become available online via live web stream on the Government of Nova Scotia website.
Closed captioning is provided for the Speech from the Throne and budget proceedings.
February 16, 2017
Media request leads to a government motion to allow accredited media to livestream proceedings of the Law Amendments Committee. Livestream is carried by CBC, Global and CTV Atlantic.
March 1, 2017
Livestream broadcast of Public Accounts Committee proceedings is first tested on YouTube.
Managers of Legislative Television
1991-2004 Don Ledger
2004-2016 James MacInnes
2016 – present William Hirtle