York Region is a huge and colossally important tier of Government but we don’t know what goes on there.
Its Council meetings are live audio streamed but no video. The Committee meetings are not broadcast or streamed at all. If you want to know what’s happening you have to be physically present. I've been banging on about this for ages.
News organizations can’t use video clips in their TV programmes. Because at York Region video isn’t allowed.
Debates on crucially important issues such as affordable housing, planning and growth disappear into the ether, unrecorded.
The contributions (or indolence) of members goes unremarked.
College of Cardinals
The College of Cardinals is more open and transparent than York Region.
A report going to the Region’s Committee of the Whole tomorrow (15 September) on “Further Consideration of Broadcasting Regional Council and Committee Meetings to the Public” presented by the noxious Michael Di Biase recommends no action. Regional Council Members including our own Tony Van Bynen and John Taylor are asked to “receive the report”.
The report suggests that “audiences for broadcasted municipal meetings is low”. But I suspect audiences for Queen’s Park and the House of Commons are low too. But should we turn off the lights and pull out the plugs?
I don't think so.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
The report tomorrow concludes that
“Listenership for the live Council audio stream is relatively low and based on the experiences in other municipalities it is unlikely to significantly increase if video is made available. The Region will continue to promote Council highlights through social and traditional media channels.”
This is simply not good enough. We are not living in the 1950s.
York Regional Council is a closed inward looking world. A cosy club. It needs to be burst wide open.
I have asked Tony Van Bynen and John Taylor to call the report in for debate and a vote.
We shall see if, in the absence of cameras, they stir themselves.
My email this evening to Tony Van Bynen and John Taylor – who both sit on York Regional Council – reads:
I see on the agenda of tomorrow's regional Committee of the Whole that a report is being presented by Regional Councillor Di Biase entitled "Further Consideration of Broadcasting Regional Council and Committee Meetings to the Public".
The recommendation is to receive the report.
I expect you will wish call it in for debate and press for a vote.
I shall be at the Committee of the Whole tomorrow because there is no other way I can follow what is going on. Twitter and Facebook "broadcasting highlights" are no substitute for continuous broadcasting.
Who would suggest these days that Queen's Park or the House of Commons should only do audio broadcasting? The very idea is absurd.
The fact that very few people watch is not an argument for turning off the cameras - or not getting them rolling in the first place.
I see that 13 people on average watch Newmarket meetings that are video streamed. Perhaps those are the very people who inform others what is happening. Perhaps news organisations rely on video streaming.
I am sure neither of you would wish to turn off live streaming.
The arguments are all familiar to you and I would like to see you deploy them tomorrow.
People will not be watching. But they will know what happens.