Friday, 4 February 2011

Vanity broadcasting or a vital public service

Down in Cornwall I note that  Alex Folkes is commenting on the County Council's webcasting and defending it from BBC Cornwall snipping A Lanson Boy: Council videos and webcasting:

Cornwall Council's online viewing comes in two forms. First there is the webcasting of full council and cabinet meetings. In the six months since they started, these have attracted more than 45,000 viewers.

I'm in favour of as much transparency and openness as possible, and these broadcasts allow people who cannot get to a meeting to see what is happening, especially in an area where it can easily take a resident an hour or more to get to County Hall. I wish more meetings were webcast but this is a great first step.
Now I have begun exploring this in Sefton. Very few people attend Council meetings-there is the issue of the time of day and in Sefton's case the venue. In many ways this is the new Hansard. Local newspapers carry so little detail of the Council's work-despite the best endeavours of the small band of journalists that are still employed. I can only see that getting worse as the squeeze on newspaper revenues continues. It is the same nationally. I well remember broadsheeets carrying detailed parliamentary report. Today we get sketch writers instead.  
is the cost especially at a time when budgets are getting so severely cut. On top of this is the widespread belief that only councillors would watch! (more than one officer has whispered in my ear that when the reviewed the viewing figures after an experiment by a nearby council it turned out to be the case that it was the councillors watching themselves)
Alex has come to the conclusion that the cost is worth it:
Is it a waste of money? The facilities are now in place and each webcast costs very little - a bit of staff time. So I would think that this openness is well worth the initial set up fees.
Well you can judge for yourself by having a look at their last cabinet meeting here - found you had to wait till 4mins 10sec before they began and the sound kicked in. There is a thoroughly riveting discussion on the waste disposal contract which I am sure will be of interest to my colleague Cllr Tattersall

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