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Council / Broadcasting council meetings live would ‘open up the chamber’

Councillors meeting in Lerwick Town Hall last year.

THERE are hopes that the decision making process within Shetland Islands Council could become more transparent if plans for live streaming meetings come to fruition.

A business justification case for a “fully integrated” system to broadcast public meetings is going in front of councillors this week.

It seeks funding for £70,000 for one-off deployment costs, plus £25,000 in annual revenue licence costs.

At the moment council meetings are held online via MS Teams. The main committee meetings are recorded and published on the council’s YouTube channel.

In more recent times councillors have been present in Lerwick Town Hall, while socially distanced, and some link in from home alongside members of the media.

The pandemic has essentially forced the council to go digital quicker than anticipated, but the current set-up is not deemed appropriate to let the public view meetings live.

At a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee on Monday, elected members said live broadcasts should give greater transparency.

“It improves democracy, and it improves accountability in terms of the public being able to see exactly what decisions we’re making and why we are making them, and get the all round broader picture of what decisions councillors are making,” councillor Ryan Thomson said.

“It might potentially open the doors for folk considering standing for council, but may have transport issues.”

North Mainland councillor Emma Macdonald said broadcasting live would “open up the chamber” and hopefully increase the public’s interest in the decision making process.

She said what the media chose to report from meetings is often “not a full picture of what actually happens”.

Some of the existing council meeting videos on YouTube vary in popularity, however, with a three-hour full council meeting in December for instance only viewed 36 times so far.