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Peter Cormick - 14 October 2014

Peter Cormick made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 14 October 2014.

Live streaming of council meetings

Along with others, I've been pushing for the live streaming of council meeting for at least the last five years. In response, the previous GM would always say that it is too expensive and that it would give rise to defamation actions.

Early last year, just a few months after the new council took the reins, there were six councillors who were keen to see live streaming introduced but they were talked out of it, with the same line of 'cost and defamation'. And now our mayor has expressed opposition to it, publicly.

I have been prompted to speak on this subject today by a report in last Wednesday's local paper, that Bega Valley Shire Council intends to 'live stream' its meetings from next year but that our mayor said "At this stage, we will not be looking to stream meetings online because of the cost involved. A lot of councils are getting rid of this sort of technology because it has proved to not improve community involvement". He went on to say that "council might reconsider the matter if live streaming proved to be an advantage in Bega. We will re-visit anything to make sure we are going as transparent as possible. However, our council decided we will not be going down that line". Talk of having it both ways – we won't do it but we might!

Did our mayor really say that live streaming "has proved to not improve community involvement"?! Where is the proof? And if it exists why would the mayor consider following Bega on a path that would apparently lead to failure?

How is that we can all Skype across the globe at no cost beyond that of our internet connection and yet we are told that it would be too expensive to stream from here? And how can defamation – which requires an audience to occur – be a concern when the internet merely enlarges the gallery that already exists here in the chamber? The net does not create an audience, it simply enlarges it.

As the mayor of the Bega Valley Shire said in the report I have referred to, "councillors would need to become better skilled in presenting their arguments". So too the staff, in the explanations and answers they give to councillors. There would be a level of transparency not yet seen in this shire. And the standard of debate would improve significantly. Why would anyone stand in the way of such improvements?

Following are links to a few councils that do live stream, so you can see how it is done.