RDOS pulls plug on broadcasting meetings

South Okanagan directors question whether the public demand warrants the $55,000 cost

Insomniacs might be disappointed to learn a local government has decided against broadcasting its meetings on the Internet.

The idea faded to black Thursday during a budget workshop at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen in which directors rejected a staff report that estimated it would cost $55,000 to buy the necessary equipment to make meetings available online.

“I’m not saying anything surprising, but a lot of what we talk about is pretty dry,” said Naramata Director Karla Kozakevich. “It might be good to air at night to put people to sleep.”

Kozakevich was among the directors who noted they’d had no requests from constituents to stream the meetings.

“We often say they don’t know we’re here, so I question whether they’re even going to find a webcast or station on TV to watch it,” she said, adding a scaled-down trial might be more appropriate.

“We have some hot-topic issues. Could we not video that ourselves and run it on the RDOS website as a starting point and see what interest that develops?”

West Bench Director Michael Brydon noted that sparse attendance at public meetings is also likely a good gauge of people’s disinterest in meeting webcasts.

“It would be different if this room was full of people trying to get in, who actually care what’s going on here,” he said.

“I think we need people kicking down the door saying, ‘You must webcast,’ before we do this.”

Andrew Jakubeit, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, told colleagues that he runs a video production company and the $55,000 cost estimate could easily be trimmed down.

And further, Jakubeit said, there’s probably more value in making recordings of meetings available online than there is in streaming them. Archiving the meetings, he continued, would allow people to view items of local concern at their leisure.

“Whether we have 10 people or 100 people watching the stream during the day is irrelevant,” he said. “The bigger thing is that video piece that they can watch much later and see what was said.”

Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells, also an RDOS director, had advocated at previous meetings for webcasts to raise awareness of the regional government and the work it does.

“Probably the reason people are not knocking down the doors is they don’t know we’re here,” Wells said. “But we can just sit here like mushrooms and keep the low profile that we have and keep surveying people, find out what they feel about us or whatever those things are that we do.”

Directors voted against discussing webcasting further during budget deliberations, but will include a question about it in the next RDOS citizens’ survey.

The board did, however, keep alive a few other items for further budget discussion.

A $10,000 request for additional staff time to deal with the regional sign problem did gain preliminary approval.

The board heard that cash could be used to tackle 40 files related to signs on private property that contravene local bylaws.

The RDOS Enterprise Unit, which generates revenue through the supply of services such as information technology and human resource management to member municipalities and the public, got approval to carry on with its request for $31,980 for additional staffing. A $50,000 budget add-on for economic development also made the cut.