Television networks could end up winning their battle to keep news cameras in Parliament.

Keen not to buy a fight with the media in election year, it is understood the Government wants a quick agreement on the issue.

Helen Clark said yesterday that the Government had responded to a unanimous decision of an all-party committee in 2003 recommending a single tax-funded TV system for Parliament. But the Prime Minister has acknowledged that "clearly there are still issues that need to be worked through."

The Government is understood to be leaning towards quashing the idea of a ban on network cameras signalled by the Office of the Clerk when the $6.2 million system was announced.

Labour has looked increasingly isolated this week as NZ First, Act, National and the Maori Party have sided with the networks.

Yesterday the Commonwealth Press Union media freedom committee, representing the television, radio and print media, held an emergency meeting and decided to formally convey to Speaker Margaret Wilson their insistence news cameras have right of access.

Chairman Tim Pankhurst said plans to ban independent coverage were "out of touch with the public perception of democracy".

He and CPU secretary Lincoln Gould would convey the resolution to Ms Wilson at a meeting on Monday afternoon.

Mr Pankhurst said he would also raise the current restrictions on what cameras can and can't cover in Parliament.

Those rules were broken this week by TV3 and TVNZ when they pictured Cabinet minister David Benson-Pope asleep during Wednesday's question time.

The Speaker's office confirmed a letter about the item had been sent to TV3 - the first broadcaster to carry the image - but would not reveal its contents. TV3 news chief Mark Jennings had not received it yesterday afternoon.

National, Act and NZ First's opposition to the ban contradicts the unanimous view of all parties in a 2003 report from the standing orders select committee.

It found it would be "unacceptable" to have network cameras in the gallery after the new system was introduced.

It said such a situation would be "intrusive" and was only tolerated because the House had not produced its own feed.

Yesterday, Act leader Rodney Hide and NZ First leader Winston Peters said they had not known news cameras would be banned.

"I certainly wasn't consulted - I didn't know until last week," Mr Hide said.

Mr Peters said a ban on network cameras could affect the quality of coverage, both technically and from a news viewpoint.

A spokesman for National leader Don Brash denied the party was u-turning on the report. Its MPs thought there would be full consultation with the Press Gallery.

Greens co-leader Rod Donald accused the other parties of "extraordinary hypocrisy" and "caving in" to network pressure.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he could not see what the problem was and the fuss was a "huge media beatup".

Ms Wilson has not responded to Herald efforts to get an interview on the issue. She has talked to other media but her office again refused the Herald an interview yesterday.


Against the ban: National leader Don Brash, NZ First leader Winston Peters, Act leader Rodney Hide, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.

Leaning towards opposing ban: Prime Minister Helen Clark.

For the ban: Greens co-leader Rod Donald, United Future leader Peter Dunne.

On the fence: Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton.