Cameras in the Courtroom
Last revised April 29, 2020

The issue of media coverage (i.e. television and still photographs) in the courtroom is addressed by statute in some jurisdictions. 

In BC, the media have historically been precluded by common law from bringing cameras into the courtroom. As per Esson, C.J.B.C. (as he then was), in R. v. Zalm, 1992 CanLII 414 (BCSC):

The applications have been brought because of the longstanding and well-known rule of this court that no cameras may be used in the courtroom during a trial or other proceeding. That rule is not statutory and is nowhere written down. But that it exists has never, to my knowledge, been questioned...

In 2001 however, the Supreme Court of BC adopted its "Policy on Television in the Courtroom", and in 2003 adopted "Guidelines for Television Coverage of Court Proceedings". The Policy applies to "broadcasting, televising, recording or taking of photographs in the courtroom". None of those activities are permitted, "unless the parties to the proceeding consent, and unless the permission has been expressly granted by the presiding judge following application...".

A leading case is R. v. Pilarinos and Clark, 2001 BCSC 1332. In her reasons for judgment on an application for expanded media coverage, Madam Justice Bennett reviews the state of the law, the inherent jurisdiction of the court, the common law rule, the legal status of the Supreme Court's "Policy" and Charter issues.

The "Policy on Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms" sets out the permitted and prohibited use of electronic devices in courtrooms of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court of British Columbia. This policy came into effect September 17, 2012. Practice Direction 48, "Video Recording or Broadcasting of Court Proceedings", describes the procedure for authorization to video record or broadcast court proceedings.