B.C. Provincial Court Policy on Live Coverage of Trials

The Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia recently released a policy statement [PDF] regarding public and media access. A few sections of the policy are directed at using computers and other digital devices to transmit information during proceedings:

e. Computers
Members of the public and the media are permitted to use portable computers in Provincial Court provided that they do not disturb the proceedings or interfere with the operation of the court’s own electronic equipment, and that the computers are used solely for the purpose of note-taking.

f. Cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDA’s) or data transmission devices
Members of the public and the media may take cellular phones, PDA’s or other devices with a broadcasting or transmission function with them into courtrooms provided that the data transmission function is disabled. The quality of the courtroom digital recording and audio systems can be compromised by data transmission and thus all such data transmission functions must be turned off.

Does anyone have evidence that the use of a computer or smart phone, for example, to send text via a 3G connection might in fact “compromise” courtroom devices? The Wikipedia article on the use of cell phones on aircraft seems to conclude that there is little if any hard evidence that cell phone use could affect a plane’s systems. I’d be interested to learn whether the Provincial Court ran any tests to see what effects data transmission would have. What this policy requires is not simply that cell phones be set to silent but that they be put in “airplane” mode and thus disconnected from any network. I wonder, too, whether this will be explained and enforced.


  1. UPDATE:

    I’ve learned via Twitter (hat tip @rhh, @robhester) about the “notorious BlackBerrry buzz” in PA speakers. Once I had this term I was able to find a couple of articles that discuss the buzzing noise in some (badly shielded) PA systems produced by cell phone radio signals, particularly when the signal strength in the building is weak and the phones have to increase power to be “heard.” See: http://bit.ly/g4rQk8 and http://bit.ly/aPo6Pr The second article suggests that the problem might be lessening — or that we’re so used to it that we don’t notice the buzz as much.

  2. The Chief Judge should upgrade to whatever audio equipment is being used in the BC Supreme Court, where, as far as I know, PDAs are still fair game.