Live Streaming: Open Democracy in local government.


7 questions for local bodies and city councils to ask before live streaming meetings

There’s a cliché that gets rolled out - “if you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to worry about” – the same applies to putting council meetings online.

A growing wish shared by city councils, regional councils and other local government bodies is to be more transparent with their ratepayers. This move to an open and accessible democracy has the huge advantage of helping members of the community understand local government processes and systems and follow decision-making on issues that are of importance to them.

By live streaming/webcasting all council meetings and making them accessible and then recording that stream to create an online video library for later viewing as and when suits, you actually prevent a skewed view of events from becoming established. People can access all content at a time and place that suits them. The live streaming of council meetings also means that media didn’t feel the need to attend the hearings as they can watch the proceedings live online.

Council meetings are streamed and presented without bias and are able to be viewed online in the same way as someone would be able to receive information if they had actually attending the meetings. When a part of the meeting has to be held in private it’s quite simple to turn off the cameras and microphones, in a similar way that the council chamber is emptied of the public when it goes into 'committee'.

One man and his dog?

One reason that is often given for not live streaming is that only one man and his dog will watch. While sometimes that might be true, we have found that viewer numbers very much depend on how the council in question promotes the live stream and what is on the agenda. If the local body records the live stream and creates a video library so that viewers can watch recordings at a time that suits them (a process known as time-shifted viewing), this greatly increases the viewer numbers. By allowing the viewer to share video through their social network, total viewing numbers are greatly increased.

Live stream costs

It has never been as easy or affordable as it is today to live stream council meetings, business meetings or events. Ratepayers and members of the public have come to expect live streaming in today's media world. Google-owned YouTube for example allow live streaming of meetings through their system. There are some issues with using YouTube but the fact that it is free does make it attractive. Generally the costs lie in purchasing cameras and streaming gear but after that the ongoing live stream costs are low.

7 questions to ask before live streaming

  1. How long is each meeting?
  2. How many people attend each meeting?
  3. How big are the council chambers?
  4. What shape is the council table?
  5. Is there an audio/voting/multimedia system in the chambers?
  6. Do the above systems need to be incorporated into the live stream?
  7. Do you want the videos to be archived, tagged and embedded into a website for ease of search and sharing?

If you have any other questions on live streaming your council or business meetings please contact Tandem Studios at any time.

Tandem streaming clients with links

Our Live Streaming clients, plus links to their ‘LaBon’ video archives built and managed by Tandem: New Zealand Parliament, Clerk of the House. Video archive from the last four years of Parliament.

Christchurch City Council meetings and Committee live streams and video archive.

Wellington City Council: Tandem have just designed and installed a five-camera streaming system into the council chambers, with all meetings live streamed here. Here is the link to the recent Wellington City Council Induction Ceremony for new Councillors live from the Michael Fowler Centre in central Wellington

Taupo District Council. Live Stream and video library (Video content management system, or VCMS)

Hawkes Bay Regional Council. Live Stream and Video Library.

Royal Commission into the Canterbury Earthquakes. Live streamed for more than 500 hours. The Royal Commission has now finished but the video Library is still online. This VCMS also links to all documents mentioned within each video

February 22, 2011 Memorial for the Canterbury victims of the earthquake. Live streamed from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens on February 22 2014

Christchurch Coroners Court. This inquest into the deaths of the CTV building collapse on February 22, 2011 was live streamed with the video archive hosted by the Ministry of Justice on their website.