Golden City Council Goes Live

At long last, we’ll start broadcasting City Council study sessions and regular meetings on Comcast cable channel 8. You can watch live at 7 p.m. on most Thursday nights, and Comcast is planning to rebroadcast the meetings at various times of day throughout the rest of the week. It’s funny to think that we’ll have our very own City Council meeting reruns, but I’m hoping for the cost and effort that it makes City Council more accessible and accountable. If you don’t get Comcast you can watch via downloadable webcasts. These will be posted on the city’s web site on the Saturday after each Council meeting. Finally, you can also check out DVDs and video tapes of the meetings from the Golden Public Library (1019 10th St.).

It’s not cheap to do this well (meaning to do it so that you can clearly hear what folks are saying and clearly see who is talking), and our three-month trial will run about $20,000, but I’ve been supporting the idea since I first ran for City Council and I think it will be worthwhile. I am suggesting that Council adopt some means of measuring how effective the trial is, in part to make sure that it ends up being a good use of public dollars (as I think it will) and in part to make sure we learn from our experience and adjust the program to best meet the needs of the community. If no one downloads the webcast from the web site, then perhaps we can save some money by just broadcasting on cable. Similarly, if everyone downloads and watches on their computer instead of watching on Comcast, then the public’s dollars might be better invested in broadcasting the meetings live on the web (which we won’t be doing now) instead of on cable. That discussion is scheduled for this week’s study session, which means that you can tune in or watch it later off on the city’s web site.

Finally, I’m also asking all of you, if you have an opinion, to weigh in. Over the next three months, please let me and the rest of Council know if you find it helpful, why you find it helpful if you do, and what we can do to improve the service. You can send an email to City Council or post a comment right here on my community blog.

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5 Responses to “Golden City Council Goes Live”

  1. Casey Brown Says:

    Hi Jacob: Could you explain what goes into the $20K cost? Is it equipment, labor, both? Is the webcasting or the cablecasting more expensive? Other places I’ve lived have offered similar services, but instead of just covering the city council, have pretty much broadcast anything that happened in council chambers, including all boards and commissions.

    Also, why does our local comcast public access channel not broadcast anything besides slides with city announcements? Once again, other places I’ve lived have shown things like parades, ribbon cuttings, and school plays and concerts, typically recorded by high school AV students or proud parents.

  2. Jacob Smith Says:

    We are contracting with a company that provides the equipment and service, so the bulk of the cost (I think about $13,000 for the three month trial period) essentially covers use of their equipment and labor. The webcasting – again through a contractor – will cost about $5,000 for the trial period, with some other incidental costs bringing the total to something like $19,000. If we decide after the trial period to do this indefinitely then I would guess we’d either do a longer-term lease or invest in the equipment ourselves, whatever made the most economic sense. This trial will involve broadcasting all the City Council study sessions and regular meetings, but if we decide to continue after the three month period I imagine we’d at least consider broadcasting additional meetings. Even if we invest in the equipment we’ll still have labor and production costs plus ongoing maintenance costs associated with the level of use, so for each additional meeting we might broadcast, the question will be how valuable is it to broadcast that particular board versus how much additional money will it cost. I’m figuring that we should get through this trial first, figure out how well it worked, and then explore options for continuing and, if it seems worthwhile, potentially expanding.

    I don’t know the answer to your second question but I’ll find out. You find some useful info at the city’s Channel 8 web page: http://www.cityofgolden.net/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=72.

  3. Jacob Smith Says:

    I checked with Sabrina Henderson, the city’s communications manager. She explained that the main limitations are broadcast quality (i.e., something shot on a home recorder is unlikely to be high enough quality), the city’s own policies (obvious guidelines like restricting the broadcast of commercial advertising), and the terms of our franchise agreement, which dictates that the broadcasting has to be related to city government functions. Staff is going to lay out clearly for me what exactly we can broadcast and what we can’t and I’ll relate it to you through the blog. If it turns out that we don’t like whatever these restrictions are we can revisit them when we renegotiate our franchise agreement (I think in 2010).

  4. Lynda Wentworth Says:

    I don’t think enough people will watch a City Coundil meeting on the web and therefore feel it is a waste of tax payer dollars. I think that people like to say that the “City” does not communicate in order to cover their lack of accepting responsibility for using the communicating that is available.

  5. goldenvoices Says:

    Thanks for the reply, Lynda. At a minimum, I want to make sure we get good information about how many people watch and how they watch (e.g., on cable versus downloading from the web versus checking out the videos) so we can make an informed decision about whether to continue after we finish the three month trial.

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