Key Points:

MPs may make fools of themselves from time to time but they want to ban others from doing it.

Satire, ridicule and denigration of MPs using any television footage shot from parliamentary galleries is to be banned under rules proposed by the standing orders committee.

The move on freedom of expression is not the only controversy the rules have caused.

They also create anomalies between what television cameras can show and what newspapers photographers are allowed to show, giving television the advantage.

The television cameras will be able to show wider shots than are allowed now, such as an MP's response to an answer, but photographers won't be.

For example, if an MP asking a minister a question gave the fingers to the minister, the television cameras under the new rules could film it and broadcast it, but a newspaper photographer could not take it or run it in the paper.

The newspaper would be allowed to take the shot from the television footage but not to produce its own.

The proposed rule change has been condemned by the media freedom committee of the Commonwealth Press Union and the parliamentary press gallery, which was not given prior warning of the move to ban satire or ridicule in television footage.

Labour, New Zealand First, United and the Maori Party stood firmly behind the move.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen accused media of trying to portray the restrictions as "some sort of fascist state where the heroic media of New Zealand are being denied the right to lampoon politicians".

"I think you are taking yourselves a bit too seriously," he said.

National's Gerry Brownlee suggested the rules were "interim" only and that if they did not work, they could be revised. He agreed that imposing bans on satire or ridicule could be seen as "precious".

The Green Party and Act won't say if they opposed the restrictions behind the closed door of the committee but they have concerns.

Act leader Rodney Hide said that the ability to lampoon politicians was the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. He also believed removing the restrictions on cameras in Parliament would impact on behaviour.

"I think Parliament would be improved if you could have your picture taken at any moment sitting there."

Green MP Nandor Tanczos said: "You can't restrict satire and nor would you want to. It is an important part of the culture of New Zealand."

But Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the rules would support "a more positive parliamentary environment", and it built on the code of conduct signed several weeks ago by some of the smaller parties.

Co-leader Tariana Turia hoped the rules "will assist the media in resisting the urge to indulge in satire, ridicule or denigration, to poke fun at individuals rather than representing the key policy issues and tensions of the day."

MPs have long resisted attempts by the news media to extend the rules for filming and photographing Parliament to beyond the MP speaking at the time.

But now that they are about to introduce their own live coverage of the House, it has decided the time is right.

The standing orders committee specified that a breach of the rules could be considered a contempt of Parliament - punishable by what the privileges committee decides.

Breaches to rules commonly occur but are punished only when MPs have been shown in a poor light.

TV3 was banned from filming at Parliament for a limited period for showing footage of New Zealand First MP Ron Mark giving a one-fingered salute to National MP Tau Henare in the House, and on another occasion for showing Labour Party Minister David Benson-Pope asleep.


Two views

* "The difference between living in a dictatorship and living in a democracy is that we are allowed to make fun of our politicians." Act leader Rodney Hide.

* Broadcasting of Parliament is for parliamentary purposes; I think that taking parliamentary broadcasts and turning them into a joke is going a bit far." United Future leader Peter Dunne.