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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cameras in the courtroom Turko, Donna M.

Abstract

This is a thesis on the interaction between the ideologies and discourses of legal and-media professionals in conflict over camera access to criminal court proceedings in British Columbia. A deconstruction approach is taken to penetrate some of the rhetoric of the ongoing debate. The ideologies and discursive underpinnings of the respective professional groups provided the framework from which to examine some of the reasons for the controversy and the potential areas for convergence of legal and media perspectives. A detailed examination of court precedents and public policy on cameras access is offered, followed by a discussion of social science writings that help to frame the controversy. Issues regarding the propriety of cameras in the courtroom are canvassed through interviews with media and legal members, including their opinion of television coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, the quality of criminal court television coverage, and the potential for the television media to influence trial proceedings and public reaction. The data gathered underscore differences between media and legal groups over whether cameras should be allowed to broadcast court proceedings. Evident in the findings is a variation of opinion on the quality of television news coverage: the media anticipate that improvement would occur if video coverage was permitted, while legal members stress the media's lack of knowledge about the courts and i n the profit-making motives. There was a clear recognition by the majority of all interviewees that cameras were detrimental in the O.J. trial, potentially problematic for future court proceedings, and that audiences could be negatively influenced by publicly televised proceedings; nevertheless the media group was adamant about gaining camera access to the courtroom. The majority of the legal group was strongly opposed to the idea. The different positions of the legal and media members are traceable in part, to differences in their respective professional discourses. The noted disparate elements and contradictions are identified as potential grounds of convergence for the two sides of the debate.

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