Part of Parliament: John Angeli - Director of Parliamentary Audio/Video

Posted On: 
17th June 2019

As Director of Parliamentary Audio/Video John Angeli’s role involves opening up Parliament in new and exciting ways, overseeing the relaunch of Parliamentlive.tv and enabling a massive increase in the use of video clips

John Angeli had previously worked in video at the BBC and Press Association
Credit: 
PA

When I took the director's job in 2011, it was at a pivotal point in the broadcasting unit's history. It had just become a wholly owned parliamentary service and all of broadcasting and production hadn’t long come in-house.

The biggest challenge was that while there had been some investment in our online video service, it was tiny. Having worked in video at the BBC and Press Association, I knew that video online would be something that would just continue to grow because that's where audiences are moving to.

I was pretty familiar with Parliament having reported here. The shock was just how far we were behind technically. Probably the biggest surprise was that everything was based on tape recording. And part of the shift wasn't just relaunching the website, it was actually completely re-engineering the back-end so that it was more digital. Moving everything from tape to server recording was really hard work. It took two or three years to get to the relaunch of Parliamentlive.tv. But we got there eventually.

Now on a busy day Parliamentlive.tv can have up to 20 channels of live coverage of Chamber and Committee proceedings, all happening at the same time. I can't think of anywhere else that runs 20 live video channels from a single location anywhere in the UK or Europe. It's a hell of a commitment.

My typical day is about half eight through till seven and then it might be a bit of work in the evening after that. There are lots of projects going on under the Audio/Video programme. It's busy but it's really rewarding when you get breakthroughs in those projects.

A good example of what we're driving for was the introduction of video download on Parliamentlive.tv. Previously when a member of the public or a Member or a media organisation asked for a copy we'd run off a copy onto a DVD. Everything was based on that tape-based workflow. We were probably producing around about 500 clips for people in a year – about 10 a week.

When we introduced self-service video download in March last year it enabled users to go onto the Parliamentlive.tv site and mark the in-point and the out-point of a clip that they wanted. Video download has gone from 500 clips per annum to 55,000. These changes to access and distribution have the potential to really open up parliament in a new way. And I think that's really exciting.

Video download has gone from 500 clips per annum to 55,000. These changes to access and distribution have the potential to really open up parliament in a new way.

The Administration Committee asked whether people will download video and do silly things with it such as parodies or spread fake news. And the honest answer is yes – there are going to be people that do that in the same way that they do lots of other silly things. But there is a greater good there and that's the bit that you have to focus on. And they got behind it. The committee has been really supportive – because Members are already using a lot of technology and they're really up for this sort of change.

What is sometimes difficult is the worry that you create something and there is some terrible consequence as a result. But I look at it another way: we've got problems and it's incumbent on democratic institutions to keep changing because if we don't, there is a risk that we're not relevant. And if their work is not known about, then that's an even bigger risk.

It’s really rewarding when you see the difference video online can make. I had an email from a mum in Scotland, who’d watched a Westminster Hall debate on Bulimia, saying it was so comforting to hear people discussing the issue and saying some really intelligent things. And that’s not necessarily something she would have ever come across watching television.

One of the best aspects of my job is the team: they've responded brilliantly. It's difficult when you tell people that things are going to change but they've not been phased by it, they've really thrown body and soul into it.

The worst aspect of my job is the process of getting things done. I remember very early on when I first outlined some of the changes I could see and what we're going to do, there was one chap who said, "Why do you think any of that's going to happen?" But as long as you know where you are going those frustrations fall away because you know you're going to get there eventually – technology has its own momentum.