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The Communication and Multimedia Information Department
I. – THE PRESS UNIT
The Press Unit, which was created in the 1970s, includes around thirty parliamentary civil servants all under the authority of a head of unit.
In addition to its task of receiving and accrediting both newspaper and television journalists, this unit informs journalists quickly and precisely of the proceedings of the National Assembly and its various bodies either through its publications (bulletin, technical files on the legislative work in progress, factual press communiqués etc.) or through certain of its staff whose job it is to compile official reports on the non-public proceedings of committees and delegations.
This unit, which must avoid all public positions or comments on current political issues, works, along with other bodies in the National Assembly (e.g. the Presidency and the political groups), in the field of press relations.
There are two other groups which operate within this unit: the “audiovisual” team and the “photo” team whose activities continue to grow.
For quite a long time the “audiovisual” unit was only in charge of filming parliamentary proceedings and providing such pictures, in particular to M.P.s who wanted to have a recording of their speeches during the plenary sitting.
Since September 2009 a team of civil servants is in charge of indexing and editing images of the plenary sitting and of committee meetings broadcast on internet thus providing easier access to debates and allowing the downloading of parts of debates which are chosen by internet users.
Moreover in recent years, the audiovisual team has seen its tasks considerably broaden and nowadays creates and edits films of the various events and exhibitions organized by the National Assembly. Such audiovisual documents are used for a variety of purposes, e.g. the film of the annual meeting of the “Children’s Parliament” is sent to each of the 577 classes which take part in the event every year. Several of these films are available on the website of the National Assembly.
The “photo” team’s job is to take the official photographs of the National Assembly. Thus, at the beginning of each term of Parliament, it produces a portrait photograph of each M.P. for the “Official Directory of Portraits and Notes on Members” and for the file listing individual M.P.s on the site of the National Assembly. During the parliamentary term the team carries out any photo shoots requested by the Presidency or the Protocol Department, particularly during visits of foreign dignitaries. It is also in charge of photographing the meetings of various bodies of the National Assembly. Such pictures are often used, for example, to illustrate the “Annual Activity Report”. In addition, its tasks include the photographing of the different “heritage” sites in and around the Palais Bourbon. Thus, in collaboration with the Institutional Communication Unit, it has helped set up and develop the photographic collection of the National Assembly.
II. – THE MULTIMEDIA INFORMATION UNIT
Twelve parliamentary civil servants, including two computer specialists, work for this unit, which is mainly in charge of the site of the National Assembly including its editorial management. The head of the unit is the site’s webmaster.
The unit supervises all the information provided to it by the other departments of the Assembly and places it on the site. It oversees, along with the Information Systems Department, the correct operation of the computer programmes which automatically run the site. This task may include checking the data provided concerning M.P.s, parliamentary proceedings, official reports on the work of the Assembly and its bodies, legislative files, written or oral questions and amendments. Along with other departments, it also helps create the visuals which illustrate the site.
In addition, it manages two other sites: one for M.P.s and their assistants and one for the staff of the Assembly. These two sites, on top of general information taken from the main site, include items which only concern the audience for whom they are designed. These sites are accessible, without a code, from any computer on the premises of the National Assembly. A code however is required to access the members’ site from outside the Assembly.
Besides this main task, the unit also replies to information requests on the Assembly which it receives in a variety of ways: by post, telephone or by electronic mail. Since 2007, the mandate of the Publications Unit has been transferred to the Multimedia Information Unit.
Thus this unit also oversees the supervision of “parliamentary documents” (Government and Members' bills, reports etc.) whose printing and punctual distribution are essential for the correct running of parliamentary proceedings.
It ensures that all the “initiatives” tabled by the various authors of parliamentary documents (the Government through its General Secretariat, M.P.s, committees, delegations or parliamentary offices’ rapporteurs through their assistants or the departments of the National Assembly, the Senate, through its departments) are printed and distributed in paper and electronic versions according to the norms and within the time limits laid down for each category of document.
At the beginning of each term of Parliament, the unit publishes the “Official Directory of Portraits and Notes on Members”, better known under the title of “Trombinoscope”. Furthermore, every year it publishes the directory listing the M.P.s’ names and addresses as well as the details and functions of each department.
III. – THE INSTITUTIONAL COMMUNICATION UNIT
This unit, which is made up of around sixty parliamentary civil servants, has three main tasks.
It is, first of all, in charge of the communication publications of the Assembly. In this field, the unit works, when necessary, in collaboration with external communication agencies recruited by public tender.
Some publications are regular or permanent: the annual activity report, the communication aids provided to M.P.s (e.g. the educational kit composed of several boards describing the role and organization of the Assembly which are used by M.P.s visiting schools in their constituency to illustrate their talks), to foreign guests or to people visiting the Assembly (brochures on the National Assembly or the library). In addition there are works on the history or the heritage of the Assembly (the Hôtel de Lassay or the Palais Bourbon) as well as books aimed at children such as the cartoon strip “J’ai visité l’Assemblée” (“I Have Been to the National Assembly”).
All or part of these documents and books are also available on CD-ROM.
Other publications deal with more specific subjects, such as the “deluxe” books beautifully illustrating the heritage of the Assembly. A series of great parliamentary speeches from the French Revolution to the present day has also been published with six volumes for the moment. An editorial group was set up for such collections and special agreements were signed whereby the Assembly works directly with a publisher and one or more authors.
The Institutional Communication Unit is also in charge of the organization of certain events or exhibitions which take place under the auspices of the Assembly. All such events are publicized on the site of the National Assembly when they are open to the general public.
Some events occur regularly, such as the annual meeting of the Children’s Parliament, which has taken place every June since 1994 (except in 2007 on account of the presidential and general elections), or the National Heritage Day, on the third weekend in September.
The unit is also in charge of welcoming visitors to the Palais Bourbon and of arranging the guided tours. This task is carried out by a team of around fifty specially trained Assembly staff who provide guided tours of the Assembly from Monday to Saturday, except during August. These staff members also have the task of overseeing the access to the rooms situated close to the Chamber.
Such visits, which take place in groups of fifty, are sponsored by M.P.s and thus require a system of reservation. Once the visitors have passed security, they are welcomed and given a guided tour of between one and one and a half hours. A short film of around ten minutes is shown either before or after the visit. The guides are given special training which deals with both the heritage aspect of the Assembly as well as its actual daily operation. The Institutional Communication Unit is also in charge of designing the information panels situated along the route of the tour which mainly describe the various rooms encountered. Audio guides in French, English, Spanish and German are available for visitors.
Once their tour is over, groups may visit the Assembly “Boutique” which, although outside the actual walls of the Palais Bourbon, is, in fact, very close. In this shop, the general public may purchase post cards, books written by M.P.s or about the Assembly, as well as souvenirs. The Boutique is accessible to all and a variety of information on the proceedings of the Assembly is available there. It is under the administrative responsibility of the Communication Department and has the legal status of a non-profit-making association. It works in close collaboration with the Institutional Communication Department. Its accountancy records and financial management which are drawn up with the help of an external accountancy agency are submitted, once a year, to the commission of the Bureau in charge of communication.
The unit is also in charge of running the newspaper kiosk of the Assembly.