Friday, December 18, 2009

The Things They Say...

I read in the Gazette today the story that the council is too mean or worried to webcast the council meetings. What a load of tosh! It's an old story and one I looked into when I started as a councillor.

If you want your council meetings webcast then it's not cheap. We aren't discussing a three minute YouTube clip but a fully duplex high bandwidth facility piped into the offices in Cecil Square. Those readers with a more intelligent grasp of the challenge than the hacks at the Thanet Gazumph will realise that paying £15 a month for their 8mb broadband connection is cheap because the 8mb only goes one way. Ask your ISP for 8mb upstream and you'll be paying rather more than your monthly charge.

Now extrapolate that as bandwidth in and out of the council offices and you'll realise that live webcasting invariably comes with a hefty bandwidth bill. So the simple choice is do you want your council meetings televised and if you do are you happy to pay for it or see one of the other council services cut-back to finance it. At this time in our history, I believe we have more urgent priorities to spend our dwindling budget on.

Councillor/Doctor Simon Moores, Thanet Life, 20 Feb 2009

Cllr. Simon Moores, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, said: 'The council is constantly looking at how we can use new technology to improve the service that we offer to our customers. We're aware that the decisions we make impact on local people's lives and we want to give them the opportunity to see how we make those decisions, without them having to come to the council chamber and attend the meetings. We've looked into this and research shows that people prefer 'on demand' services, where they can watch meetings whenever they want to, rather than being tied to viewing it as it happens. That's why we've decided to go with the 'on demand' as our trial, with meetings available for a certain period of time after they are held.'

Thanet Council press release, 15 Dec 2009

And after all that, it didn't work anyway!!!!


DrM. said...

To correct you as I have explained on my own weblog and in a council press release, the video/internet technology was working fine last night but the problem that prevented us web casting was down to an intermittent fault with the microphone system and wiring which feeds through all the councillor seats.

It's one we are aware of and efforts have been made to fix it or at least make it more reliable. However, I understand that because it was hard wired-in through the tables and under the carpets, there would be considerable costs and disruption if we ripped the council chamber apart in an effort to rewire it.

The intermittent fault re-appeared in the system, as we saw last night. Short of delaying the council meeting to re-boot all the systems it was decided to press on without the microphones working or the web cast. As a consequence, I apologised to all the members present for the inconvenience and we pressed on with business.

Richard Eastcliff said...

Nothing to do with first night nerves at letting us all hear Sandy and Roger, er, thinking on their feet then? Still, as it's being recorded, I presume there's nothing to stop you wielding the old editorial scissors and snipping out any embarrassing moments before it gets transmitted, eh!

That said, what I was really getting at was the spin put on why we aren't allowed to see it in real time. In February it was the cost. Now, in December, it's because it's been 'researched' and people 'prefer it as a download'. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

I doubt whether TDC have spent money doing proper market research on this but its a no brainer. People like to watch both live and on demand webcasts of council meetings. The live part reassures us tax payers that no funny business is taking place and on demand is very useful for research when councilors say one thing at the meeting and then another in the press.

DrM. said...

Strangely enough, last night was the most uncontentious council meeting I've attended to date I think.

Anyway, the answer is quite simple and goes back to what you have me saying previously. It's all about cost. Streaming live would be very expensive and a recorded broadcast represents what we can afford.

The live issue also raises other problems when items of the agenda are on "pink" and the public has to be excluded (not very often) for commercial sensitivity et al.

In the present economic climate, we are doing what we can with what we have available and without spending money that could be more productively applied in other more critical areas.

I'm as keen as anyone to see the broadcasts up and running and last night was a disappointment to me as well as you.

Richard Eastcliff said...

Well good on yer for trying, Doc, it's a step in the right direction. If you can get it to work!