Almost 32,000 tune in for council webcasts

Councillor Mike Bridgman on the City Chambers webcast during the Castlebrae High School debate

Councillor Mike Bridgman on the City Chambers webcast during the Castlebrae High School debate

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IT was never going to beat Coronation Street or EastEnders in the ratings wars – but the Capital’s own City Chambers soap opera has attracted a surprisingly big audience.

A total of almost 32,000 people have tuned in to follow live webcasts of council meetings or chosen to watch again later. Since they started 18 months ago, the live viewing figures have varied from as low as 100 to as many as 1128.

The meeting which drew the biggest audience was the one when the administration performed a U-turn on plans to close Castlebrae High School, with the crisis over the city’s bin collections the second most-watched and the decision to allow a community bid for the doomed Leith Waterworld leisure pool a close third.

Altogether, 6477 viewers have watched meetings live since the webcasting began in September 2012 and a further 25,137 have accessed them through the video archive.

Council finance convener Alasdair Rankin said: “Our webcasting service has opened up a whole new dimension making council meetings more accessible, understandable and transparent.”

The big audiences come despite repeated breakdowns of the system, which mean the council is hiring a temporary sound system for tomorrow’s council meeting – and may end up buying a new one altogether.

After last month’s full council meeting – when councillors were left to pass round a microphone “karaoke-style” – senior council official Mark Turley issued a letter of apology for what was the third breakdown of the audio system and the failure of the webcam.

It is not clear what the cost of a replacement system would be, but the budget for the current webcasting trial was £30,000.

At the last full council meeting there was no webcast for the first two hours and the audio system later broke down.

Conservative councillor Dominic Heslop said: “We had to pass a microphone around. It was sheer amateurism. I find it very strange that we have all this webcasting equipment and then we have to stand holding microphones, looking as if we’re doing karaoke acts.”

In his letter, Mr Turley apologised for the “disruption” at the February 13 meeting.

He wrote: “In response to the earlier failures, expert advice had been sought and some new equipment provided. Regrettably this did not prevent a third failure.

“Please accept my apologies for the disruption and I would reassure you that everything possible is being done to avoid a re-occurrence.”

Councillor Heslop said they had to get both the audio and webcam systems working.

“They need to work out what they are going to do about the microphone system so we can hear each other across the chamber and people watching in the public gallery can follow proceedings.”