The debate over whether to stream city council meetings online won’t be decided until the next budget meeting, and that’s just fine with the councillor who brought the original motion forward.
Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha brought forward the initial motion last October asking for city administrators to review and report on potential streaming options. Council received that report on Monday, and voted to add it to the 2021 budget discussion in November.
“I’m very happy that it’s on the agenda for budget 2021,” Botha said during an interview on Thursday. “When we look at the costs that have been proposed … it’s relative peanuts when we (compare) the amount of information that residents are able to access.”
The report from Kiley Bear, the City of Prince Albert’s communications manager, estimated it would cost between $8,000 and $12,000 to live stream and archive meetings on the City’s website. Other options, like directly streaming on social media platforms like Facebook, are also possible, however Bear wrote that the City may need to purchase additional equipment to make that happen.
The City could also partner with Shaw Cable, which currently broadcasts city council meetings live, for a one-time equipment cost of $1,775. Bear’s report indicated that Shaw would be open to the idea, although they also wanted the option to record executive committee and budget meetings.
Botha said he’s not deterred by the costs, even if they amount to around $12,000 since it’s a small price to pay for giving additional access to Prince Albert’s 35,000 residents.
“If we take $12,000 and we divide it by 35,000, which is our population, or 36,000 then you get 33 cents per resident. I can’t think of a more effective cost of communication to reach every single household,” he said.
Botha added that not every household has a television or a cable package. He views streaming options as a way to reach those residents.
He also argued it would allow residents to stay up to date on issues that aren’t covered by local media outlets.
“There’s a lot of the agenda and a lot of it may not necessarily be headline worthy, but it might be important to residents,” he said.
Prince Albert city council has streamed council meetings in the past, but without much success. In 2012 they entered into a contract with ISI Global to stream council meetings online at an annual cost of roughly $7,500. A one-year trial showed than an average of only 30 people viewed each meeting, which led to the project’s cancellation.