The BBC yesterday launched a new political website, Democracy Live, which enables the public to keep up with TV coverage of political debates.

The site offers live and on demand coverage of the Commons, the House of Lords, the European Parliament, Scottish Assembly and more, so you can keep up with debates on a variety of issues that may effect you.

BBC Democracy Live

The homepage shows a ‘Video Wall’ with a choice of footage, both live and recorded, of debates and speeches in the various assemblies and committees, as well as links to some useful information about the various assemblies that are featured on the site.

The House of Commons page, for instance, provides information about recent and upcoming debates, the political composition of the chamber, and general news. You can even type your postcode into the search box to find out how much your local MP has been claiming on expenses.

The historical section is impressive too, and contains video of some of the most significant  Commons speeches of the past 20 years, such as Geoffrey Howe’s famous resignation speech from 1990:

The video content all the site is all searchable, so if you want to see the debates around the Lisbon Treaty for instance, you can find all related videos on the site:

The results are well presented with the most recent first, while some useful filtering tools have also been provided, so you can search by institution, how recent the videos are, or specify a date range.

What is really useful here is the ability to and search for mentions of your search term in the actual
video and skip to that exact point in the speech or debate.

The video search is powered by a speech-to-text system (from Blinkx and Autonomy) which creates transcriptions of the videos, making the content searchable.

It’s not perfect, the BBC thinks it is a bit more then 80% accurate, but it does save time spent trawling through videos for the piece of information you are looking for.

There are some other useful functions too, such as the tool to search for your local MP or representative, and see more details about them. The BBC will also be adding a follow option so users can keep up with what their local MP is doing in the Commons.

The site, which cost £1m and took 18 months, is a very useful tool for people who want to keep up to date with issues you are interested in or that affect you directly, without having to sit though hours and hours of the Parliament channel. It should also prove to be a useful research tool for journalists and students.