Conveners and the media

71. Advice on all aspects of media relations and the work of the Committees can be obtained from the Media Relations Office (MRO) and the clerks. Conveners may find it helpful to discuss media related issues with the MRO staff and clerks before reaching a decision on the appropriate action to be taken. The Conveners Group has emphasised that the Guidance contained in this section and, in particular, in paras 73 and 74, applies to all Committee members.

72. Conveners will inevitably be asked to express views in the media relevant to the committee's remit.

73. If expressing a view, it is important for a convener to distinguish clearly between a view given in a personal capacity and one given on behalf of the committee. If speaking on behalf of the committee, the view must reflect matters which have been agreed in the committee.

74. However, this can be a difficult area. Conveners may find it helpful to secure the agreement of their committee as to how media relations should be handled and the extent to which the convener has authority to speak on behalf of the committee.

75. There can be grey areas and some committees have found it helpful to agree at an early stage after their establishment certain working practices covering the committee's relationship with the media.

76. For example, some committees have agreed guidelines on matters such as when press releases should be issued and by whom they should be cleared; who should clear any newspaper articles written about the work of the committees and in whose name these should be released and who has responsibility for determining when a press conference would be appropriate and how the committee should be represented at such press conferences.

77. Agreeing working practices in this way provides some measure of security for conveners in their handling of the media when asked to comment about committee business.