OnFocus – At Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, City Administrator Steve Barg will be presenting a proposal to cease the live streaming of Common Council meetings to Facebook Live.
The city has been streaming to Facebook throughout the pandemic as a way to reach more people and help with transparency of the governmental process.
According to the proposal, streaming to Facebook was first suggested by a former cable access coordinator in 2016. The proposal was not pursued due to multiple questions and concerns.
Once again in 2019, a proposal was made to have the city start streaming the meetings to Facebook, this time by Communications Director Tom Loucks. The council was more open to the idea this time around and on July 9, 2019, the council voted unanimously to enter a 3-month trial period. After a successful trial with no issues involving public comments, the council decided it was viable to keep streaming to Facebook.
The major concern of streaming to Facebook would be the comments that the public could leave on the page. Barg said the city made efforts to keep comments to a minimum but could only do this by deleting the comments as they came in.
“During the recent hearings on a complaint filed against the Mayor, I observed comments scrolling throughout the proceedings,” Barg said in his proposal. “When I discussed this with Communications staff, I learned that we have never been able to prevent this. Our staff has been manually hiding comments until the meetings are over. This works when comments are fewer and farther between, but not when comments become more numerous.”
Barg stated the ultimate goal is to be transparent and accessible but the comments are tainting the meetings.
“It is my goal to be as accessible and transparent as reasonably possible,” Barg said in the proposal. “Tom Loucks and David Bennett of our Communications Department have done a really outstanding job of achieving this goal over the last two years. But in this case, I have concerns about allowing what may become an online forum that detracts from business discussed and conducted during city meetings. I am aware that the City Attorney also has potential concerns about using Facebook Live this way.”
Council meetings are currently being live-streamed on the city website, cable channel 991 and they are available on the city’s YouTube page after the conclusion of the meeting.
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