Tuesday 23 April 2024
 4.9°C   NNW Moderate Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Council / No blockbuster viewing figures for SIC meetings – but a steady stream of interest

Then convener Malcolm Bell chairs the first council meeting in the new chamber at St Ringan's church earlier this year. Photo: SIC

FULL council sessions have been the most popular in terms of viewing figures since SIC meetings began being broadcast live on the internet in September.

But one recent development committee meeting saw just 14 people tune in live.

Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald said it was important that “people can see and understand the decisions that the council makes”.

Since 6 September Shetland Islands Council has broadcast its main meetings live online from the new St Ringan’s chamber in a bid to improve accessibility to local democracy. 

The video is then archived, meaning people can watch it anytime.

There is also the ability to skip to each item on the agenda in the video, or even to a certain speaker during a particular section – not always helped though if a councillor forgets to turn their microphone on.

Shetland News has obtained viewing figures for all live broadcast meetings to date through a freedom of information request and they paint a varied picture.

As of Friday (25 November) there had been 1,167 views across the ten broadcast meetings. Nearly 500 were live views, and 669 were post-meeting.

A full council meeting on 28 September attracted 112 live views during the meeting, as well as 121 archive hits, making it the most-watched session so far.

It is perhaps unclear what made it so popular, but among the topics discussed by councillors were plans for overhead power lines, cost of living contingency planning, short term lets licensing and a possible new Brae school.

A full council meeting on 23 November, which included motions on free public transport and universal school meals, has already registered 143 views in total.

The novelty of the new broadcasting system, meanwhile, has seen the first meeting – the education and families committee on 6 September – attract a total of 199 views to date.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


But some other meetings have not attracted as many; the development committee on 8 November has only had 35 views in total (14 live and 21 archive) while environment and transport the next day has had 52 (29 live and 23 archive).

It is important to note that council meetings take place during working hours, so live broadcasts will not fit into everyone’s schedule.

Macdonald said she is not sure if the council has reached expected levels of viewing figures, but she recognised the convenience of being able to replay meetings back.

The leader also feels that the public having a closer eye on how local government works could have long-term benefits.

“I appreciate that meetings can be long, and people have limited time, so the ability to search for the item you are interested in is helpful,” she added.

“I would hope access to local democracy in action will encourage more people to consider standing in the future. 

“I know it seems a long way off, but it goes very quickly, and I think being able to view meetings will help people understand more about the process.”

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee earlier this month, legal chief Jan Riise said it was expected that figures would tail off after initial interest.

He said that prior to online broadcasts “virtually nobody witnessed a council meeting unless they made a special effort to come into the chamber”.

In the Covid pandemic the council did introduce YouTube uploads of certain meetings after they had finished, but they were taken from Microsoft Teams and did not enjoy the same audio and visual quality of the new videos.

Meanwhile anyone who is interested in witnessing the action in person is still able to take a seat in the St Ringan’s chamber, the former library building. The schedule of council meetings is published online.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.