Thursday, 3 February 2011

Council videos and webcasting

BBC Cornwall has an article claiming that Cornwall Council videos are watched by just a few viewers each in some cases. I'm going to break from tradition and defend the Council over these.

The system isn't perfect (I'll come on to that later) but it's a good start.

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.

The webcasts are archived debate by debate so you can see who said what on a particular issue without having to troll through hours of discussions that you are not interested in. Of course, there are some tweaks that can be made to improve the service in the future. For instance, the webcasts of the biggest debates could be advertised on the front page. But there are up to 45,000 people who have heard what has been said and decided in their name who would not have done without the webcasts.

I'd also like to see more interactivity. Videos on Youtube, for example, allow people to leave comments. I think we should have such a facility for Cornwall Council's output too. I'd also like to see the key debates highlighted in more forums such as on Youtube and Facebook.

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.

The second type of output are the Council's home produced videos. These are well shot and produced and short enough not to lose viewers' attention. They may not be the most exciting - they are essentially public information films - but they are done by one person using part of their working time.

Again, I'd like to see some sort of comments system put in place so that residents could raise comments about the videos themselves or about the services they advertise. But the principle (and quality) is excellent.

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