News / Victoria

Saanich to podcast council meetings

An archive of audio and video recordings of council meetings could be "an invaluable tool for voters," says one of Saanich's councillors.

Councillor Vic Derman's motion tohave council and committee meetings streamed live online and archived as a podcast was approved unanimously Monday night.

"This will give residents more opportunity to have contact with the people they elect," Derman said, noting that many people cannot attend council meetings at their scheduled times.

Currently, minutes are made available to the public online, but Derman says an audio or video podcast would give residents the chance to see more of what happens at council.

"Our minutes are not verbatim. They're essentially a Reader's Digest of what's happened," he said. "They certainly don't capture all the debate and the nuances of expression."

According to Derman, if council doesn't keep up with technology, citizens will.

"It's more and more important to present an accurate picture to the public," he said. "With today's technology people can come in and use their cellphones to record meetings, but we have no control over whether the record they're presenting is accurate."

Although Derman joked that listening to entire council meetings could be a cure for insomnia, he said a digital archive would allow residents to conveniently follow the issues that most concern them.

"If you took all this material and put it on a hard drive — or in the cloud — and indexed it properly, people could go in and see what their council said or did around a certain issue," he said. "That would be particularly valuable at election time."

Despite being passed unanimously, Derman said council was concerned residents might be deterred from speaking if their remarks, and possibly even their image, were broadcast on the Internet.

"Would they do it as readily if they were aware that their image and words would be published online and be there in perpetuity? I don't know," said Derman.

A number of other Vancouver Island municipalities have implemented some form of podcasting, Derman says, including Sooke and North Saanich. On the mainland, Vancouver and Surrey both record and archive meetings. Residents of those municipalities can also search through agendas and minutes by keyword.

Derman says the motion could be implemented as early as next spring. In the interim, Saanich staff will research the technology required, and report back to council about the feasibility and cost.

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