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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Police Board Begins Web Streaming

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Update: 11:30PM

The Toronto Police Services Board is web streaming its first meeting this afternoon, courtesy Rogers Television, the same service used to broadcast and webcast Toronto City Council meetings.

While not all City agencies, boards, commissions and committees can easily stream their meetings online, the meeting rooms used by the TPSB are already equipped with the necessary cameras and equipment to stream proceedings.

In a similar vein, at the June City Council meeting, councillors Michael Walker and Karen Stintz put forward a motion [PDF] asking that Council request the Rogers community television station to broadcast Executive Committee meetings on Toronto’s channel 10.

Unfortunately, the motion at Council was referred to the Executive Committee, which decided to defer consideration until after the City implements its 311 service. 311 has been on the books for five years and its implementation date is still undefined. Why broadcasting meetings would be tied to 311 mystifies this writer, particularly because Executive Committee meetings are already broadcast within City Hall for the benefit of councillors, their staff and senior bureaucrats.

Update: City spokesperson Rob Andrusevic provided Spacing with a response that is potentially contradictory to what the decision document [PDF] for the September 2, 2008 Executive Committee meeting says regarding the timing of consideration of the motion to request Rogers Television broadcast Executive Committee meetings (whether the two are contradictory depends on the wording and interpretation of certain motions; the committee could have decided to deep six the Walker motion to focus on a web-based strategy). With that said, Andrusvic’s response is much more promising than what came out of Executive Committee earlier this month.

“The City of Toronto will continue to expand the public’s access to real-time committee-focused information via the internet. City staff will present a budget proposal for the 2009 fiscal year to provide live web streaming of Executive Committee, other Standing Policy Committees and Community Council meetings. Capital investments will be required to provide this service. The proposal will also include the archiving of these broadcasts so the public can view them at a time that’s convenient, and potentially find and watch a specific item rather than having to watch the entire meeting.

“The web streaming will complement the Meeting Monitoring service, launched in 2007, which allows the public to track in near real-time the status of agenda items and the progress of discussions at Standing Policy Committees, Community Councils and the Board of Health (launched in 2007), and City Council (launched in 2008).”

The part of this comment that concerns me is the need to gain Council approval for the capital investment. My guess is there’s money needed to retrofit City Hall’s Committee Room 2 and the council chambers at the three civic centres that are now used for community council meetings with the necessary video equipment. But judging by Council’s reluctance to pony up the relatively paltry amount of money needed for a functional lobbyist registry, this accountability and transparency mechanism might also be subject to sharpened knives. I hope my concern is entirely unwarranted.

Photograph by Grant MacDonald.


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