The conversations in Ballarat’s council chamber could soon be witnessed from the comfort of your couch, with the municipality again considering livestreaming meetings online.
City of Ballarat officers are recommending the city starts broadcasting meetings on their website, with an estimated $16,000 set-up cost for cameras and technology.
Officers state in a report the chosen option would give the municipality the ability to “edit archived record … to remove any inappropriate comments or actions by an individual”. But they note it comes with “relatively high ongoing costs”.
The push to livestream or broadcast council meetings entered the council chamber on May 2, when councillor Belinda Coates suggested the city adopt livestreaming of meetings to increase transparency with the public.
Though Cr Coates’ motion was voted down 6-3, an alternative motion by councillor Ben Taylor succeeded, ordering a report on the costs and liabilities of livestreaming to return to council.
Cr Coates said there is an “opportunity to improve the transparency” of meetings and increase the public’s understanding and the accessibility to council chambers.
“Councils who have implemented it have found it does just really raise the bar in terms of the standard of debate,” she said.
Other options floated by council officers include streaming directly onto Facebook or Youtube, broadcasting via community radio, or complete outsourcing of streaming and recording which could cost council more than $100,000 per year.
Thirty-two per cent of Victorian councils – including Bendigo and Ararat – currently livestream or broadcast public meetings.
City of Ballarat councillors will consider the motion at an ordinary council meeting on September 12.
City of Ballarat’s deputy mayor Daniel Moloney said there were benefits for people to “see the type of debates” councillors have.
“It’s one of the things I hear a lot about in terms of transparency, residents have asked us frequently for the ability to be able to see what happens in council meetings,” he said.
“There’s a few potential risks we’ll have to navigate though … we need to discuss how we would manage streaming members of the public to talk, because I don’t want to be in a situation where we scare people off.”
In 2016, livestreaming local government meetings became a recommendation of the Victorian Ombudsman following the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report.