Missed opportunity

The Mt Barker Council appears to have missed an opportunity to better connect with its community by rejecting a push to live stream the audio of its meetings on the internet.
The change to have the audio of meetings broadcast live on the internet and then made available to the public via the council’s website was defeated on Monday.
Supporters believed the change would create greater accountability, encourage better behavior from elected members and be a cost effective way for meetings to reach greater audiences.
Detractors were concerned about increased defamation risks, a perceived lack of community interest, a lack of public consultation and no detailed costings.
Digital meetings are becoming more commonplace – often fast-tracked by coronavirus lockdowns – and many other councils already offer an audio only or both audio and visual service to their ratepayers.
The Adelaide Hills Council live streams the visuals and audio of its meetings, while audio recordings of Alexandrina Council meetings are available to the public within days.
So defamation and consultation concerns appear to be of little substance.
Defamatory comments are defamatory no matter if broadcast on the internet or made in front of a public gallery, while any perceived pressure to encourage some councillors to think twice before speaking and avoid costly Code of Conduct issues should be welcomed.
It should be noted that not every council decision requires widespread community consultation – particularly not ones of little cost.
Councillors are elected to make decisions on behalf of their community and even State and Federal Parliament is live streamed, recorded and made available on the internet.
Not every ratepayer will tune in digitally, but allowing improved access to more residents is the way of the future.
The world is rapidly becoming a digital-first society, so the issue of live streaming Mt Barker Council meetings will surely be raised again.
When that happens let’s hope the elected members embrace the change for the good of the community.