Thursday, December 6, 2007

To telecast or not to telecast, that is the question

The Pleasant Prairie village board Monday agreed to put audio recordings of its meetings on the village web site.

While that's a start, it would be easier (and perhaps cheaper) just to stream the live audio. A delayed recording may not be as useful as a live broadcast.

The cost for a live audio stream is minimal. The board ought to consider it.

The board talked about whether meetings should be telecast on the village cable channel but took no action due to the cost. Various figures have been tossed out and, while it won't be cheap, it probably won't exceed $100,000 to get started and I'd guess about $400-500 per meeting to cover personnel and expenses.

The job is tricker and pricier as the village's cable access point is several miles away from the village hall so lines would have to be run.

Equipment would also be necessary, i.e., a couple of broadcast grade cameras (about $5,000, give or take, each with accessories), cables, a switcher, console, racks, stands and cabinets. The color balance in the auditorium is off and lighting would need to be upgraded. For public safety provisions would need to be made to conceal cables so that someone doesn't trip on one. There's also a need for recording equipment and storage media.

Two camera operators, a console/switcher operator and someone back at the control center would likely be needed during the telecasts.

I point this out because doing the job correctly requires a chunk of change to get started and there are ongoing expenses. While I support telecasting if funds are available, I have to agree that there are higher priorities for village spending. If someone wanted to donate the hardware, that would be nice.

Former trustee Alex Tiahnybok's YouTube experiment shows that it's possible to get a video and audio image out to the public but YouTube is cumbersome and the video is awful. Plus it's a delayed broacast and the number of "hits" reveals that not that many people want to watch it. Nonetheless, Alex showed that it can be done. The real question is the cost to do it properly.

A live audio stream, however, is cheap and gives village residents and others a chance to hear what's going on at board meetings as it happens. Someone who can't make a meeting could simply log on the village website and listen in.

The Kenosha News editorially applauded the village board for making the audio recordings available. It's really a backhanded compliment. Nowhere did the newspaper chide other the vast majority of other governmental entities in the county that don't do so. It's not fair to single out the Pleasant Prairie village board without pointing out the number of other town, village and school boards that do less.

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