Author Topic: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings  (Read 11091 times)

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Offline Des Morgan

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Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« on: April 14, 2011, 06:53:30 PM »
I really could not keep a straight face when i read the comments of Coun Bluhto the proposal by Coun Bob Wright that SBC should consider televising Council Meetings.

Quote
Why should we pay £35,000 of council tax payers money to provide a service citizens can get for free?

Now, ignoring the £400,000 of council taxpayers money he gave to Rikki Hunt for a service which citizens already had and could get quite easily, it is quite astounding that he dismisses this suggestion with such insouciance. I hesitate to say it, but perhaps because it's not his idea it must by default have no merit.

I happen to the view that Coun Wright and Coun Dempsey are just a little too advanced in their thinking, I would prefer that stage one should be providing a 'Pod Cast' facility whereby members of the public can access a recording of a  meeting the very next day by visiting the Council's website.

Dare i suggest that this is exactly what was being suggested by Coun Bluh when in his support of the Wi-Fi programme he talked about communication being a vital strand in the Council’s Connecting people Connecting Places strategy. Indeed the Wi-Fi project was linked to the very idea of local communities being able to link with the Council and others.

 






Offline the gorgon

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2011, 07:58:14 PM »
The thought of cameras and us proles finding out what they get up to must scare the living daylights out of some of our councillors.

I'm not saying that this is good value for money but spending £35k on this ideal is better than spending x10 as much on a vapour-ware wifi system.

Offline Drone

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2011, 06:57:54 AM »
£35,000 sounds excellent value to make local democracy more transparent and provide an accurate record of council meetings.

Yep, going along may be 'free', but if you work late, can't get the transport or have mobility problems, you can't attend and are so excluded from the debate.

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Offline Muggins

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2011, 08:10:11 AM »
Well said Drone, and £35,000 would probably work out at ten heads a penny.  and frankly with all the technology about it wouldn't cost that.

I dare say he is thinking of the cost of editing it?  :D

As they want to use Volunteers, here's one way an enthusiatic techi buff volunteer could use and gain skills. That would half the price.
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Offline bobwright

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2011, 09:02:11 AM »
Rod has done a good job at scaremongering. The average cost that Mark Dempsey found was £18 K.

I accept in hard times costs do matter that is why I put the case that the motion was not prescriptive. We could start with simple recordings that could be broadcast. The local community radio do that all the time; including outside broadcasts. Swindon Viewpoint videoed no end of events and some local politics. If you visit the Viewpoint site the recordings are still available as a historical record. This includes the development of the town centre and the Brunel centre.

If an idea is good it will not go away so whilst pretending no one would be interested I reminded members that the Adver relies on politics for their stories and whilst Tories pretended to be camera shy the Wi-fi launch and the number of press releases they constantly forward to agencies shows this not to be true.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2011, 10:12:37 AM »
The actual truthful reason why they do not want these recordings is because it will enable people, like me, to quote them word for word on any undertakings they make and do not deliver, or do something they say has been fully debated when it hasn't.  This will be SCRUTINY in its raw and unbridled form.

The administration, whoever it is, will have a great deal to lose if they continue to treat the public, who fund their salaries and expenses, with such contempt.  The public will also be able to see how their Councillor Representatives Behave and Perform in their name.  Presently I think they would be shocked and may well consider it worse than a school room or Westminster at its worst.

Now if we had recordings about everything to do with Wi-fi and Digital City some people would never dare be seen again.

Black is White or is it Black or grey for that matter, but one thing is for sure once it is recorded it is there on the record for all time.  The only question is why has it taken so long?
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Offline Ringer

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2011, 12:59:48 AM »
It is a real political conundrum councillors want to be quoted, mentioned by the newspaper, but not verbatum if the adver did not turn up would Swindon News (Council Newspaper) carry a sanitised version of meetings to all 82,000 houses? Why not take the 35K from the Swindon news and use that? Or is a Town hall pravda better for the Cllr Bluh & Co? Does the Swindon News cost more than 35K a year to produce?
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Offline Drone

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2011, 10:03:24 AM »
It is a real political conundrum councillors want to be quoted, mentioned by the newspaper, but not verbatum if the adver did not turn up would Swindon News (Council Newspaper) carry a sanitised version of meetings to all 82,000 houses? Why not take the 35K from the Swindon news and use that? Or is a Town hall pravda better for the Cllr Bluh & Co? Does the Swindon News cost more than 35K a year to produce?

Probably more. It's a huge waste of money.
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Offline Mickraker

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2012, 04:53:35 PM »
SBC TV now there is a novelty  :santa_undecided: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/10115283.Call_to_get_council_cameras_rolling_for_the_web/
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Offline Simon

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2012, 08:26:40 PM »
Some months ago when the subject of recording SBC meetings was being discussed here, I spent some time thinking about the costs which would be involved. I never got round to writing a post about it at the time, but here's a summary of my thoughts at the time...

There's already a camera and PA system in the council chamber, and they're clever enough to ensure that whoever's currently got the floor (indicated by the red light on their microphone lighting up) also appears on the TV screens. So no capital outlay for cameras etc.

It should be possible to hook some kind of recording device up to the existing camera / PA system, to capture the audio and video onto DV tapes / DVDs / some other storage medium. There'll be some capital cost here, for a suitable recording device and someone with the knowhow to wire it all up. Possibly a few £hundred for the hardware and I'm not familiar enough with the existing system to reliably estimate for the knowhow person, maybe a few £thousand.

Capital costs for software: £0. Windows XP and later versions all come with Movie Maker as standard, which is perfectly capable of capturing footage from a DV camera, chopping it into manageable chunks, adding titles and whatnot and exporting the results to a new movie file. If SBC are using Linux instead then I'm sure there's a free (and open source too) equivalent available somewhere.

Possible capital cost for a new PC: If there isn't an existing PC with the capacity for capturing and editing the footage then a suitable new one could be obtained for somewhere around the £1k mark.

And then there's revenue costs. A standard DV tape can hold an hour's worth of footage, or 90 minutes if your camera has a long play setting. The last pack of tapes I bought cost £4 per tape, but I'm sure they're available cheaper, especially with bulk buying. DVDs are even cheaper, I think less than £1 each. And how many hours of footage would we really be recording over the course of a year?

Broadcast costs: This depends a lot on the medium used to deliver the finished video to the audience. I don't know the first thing about getting something broadcast on a TV channel so won't comment on that. I notice one of the comments on the Adver article mentions free live streaming over the www and automatic recording of the stream on youtube, that's something I have no experience of so I can't really comment there either, although it sounds worthy of investigation by anyone tasked with this sort of project.

If I was managing this project then I'd set up a SBC account at youtube (other video hosting services are available). Capital cost and revenue cost both zero. From browsing their support forum I can see that lots of companies already use them to host video content which they then embed in their own intranets.

I dare say he is thinking of the cost of editing it?  :D

Quite possibly. That's the time consuming bit of making videos. Someone would need to be employed to turn the raw footage into videos to be published. So how much time would they need? Assuming a worst case scenario...

Capturing footage from a DV tape onto the PC's disk ready for editing takes a lot of the time, because it's captured in real time, i.e. each minute of footage takes a minute to transfer from the tape to the PC. There are probably things out there which can do it faster for a larger initial capital cost, but I'm not going to speculate on them, I'm going to stick to what I know. I normally do this capture stage in my sleep, i.e. I start the capture process off and then go to bed, so it's done when I get up, but I'll assume that the employee who does this needs to sit twiddling their thumbs whilst capture is in progress.

Next step, break the video into publishable chunks. Again, I'll assume that the employee needs to watch all the footage in real time in order to identify the start and end of public questions, the start and end of agenda items of significance, that sort of thing. So again, 1 minute spent per minute of footage.

Next step, add captions to the videos. The time taken for this varies enourmously depending on how detailed the captions need to be. Do we want just a caption at the beginning of each video to say what meeting it is and when it was held? Do we want a caption every time someone speaks, to tell us who they are?

Next step, export the movie file we want to publish. This can take a while, although it's a lot faster than the capture stage, I usually make a cup of coffee and check emails / TS / facebook while I'm waiting for it to finish.

Next step, upload the video files to youtube (other video hosting sites are available) and given them titles, descriptions and all the other metadata which makes them turn up in the search results of people who are searching for the sort of thing you're publishing. Youtube are really good at this bit, they let you start the upload and then you can enter the metadata while the file is still uploading, and then you can queue up another upload and enter its metadata without waiting for the first one to finish, and so on until you've queued up all your uploads and their metadata and can safely go to bed and wait for them to finish.

And finally, embed the video(s) in your website, on TS, on facebook and wherever else you think they might catch the attention of your audience.

Given the last few paragraphs, I think a full time worker, even working with a worst case of how many times they need to sit through the footage in real time, could publish between 1 and 2 hours of meeting footage every working day.

How much does a full time worker cost? I suspect that after the capital costs I've listed above, there would still be enough money in cllr Heenan's speculative £30k pot to pay someone to do this for the first year.

And, again, how many hours of meetings are there to record, capture, edit and broadcast each week? Does it even require a full time post?

From my experience of attenting monthly full council meetings, just recording and publishing those would be enough to make previously unengaged portions of the electorate sit up and pay attention. I make that around 4 or 5 hours of meetings per month, therefore maybe a week of employee time per month to get them online?

Transcripts... now that would be really useful, turning the audio record of what people have said into text which the search engines can store in their indexes. We've already got that with Hansard for the UK parliament. But I'm not suggesting that SBC should implement that, it would be very labour intensive and therefore push the costs through the roof. Maybe one day though...

The actual truthful reason why they do not want these recordings is because it will enable people, like me, to quote them word for word on any undertakings they make and do not deliver, or do something they say has been fully debated when it hasn't.  This will be SCRUTINY in its raw and unbridled form.

:agreed:

Disclaimer: I may be a software developer but providing estimates isn't one of my strong points, so this post is supplied "as is", without any warranty, blah de blah de blah...
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Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2012, 08:31:57 AM »
Swindon Borough Council has been offered the support to broadcast meetings from a well known local radio station managed by someone who knows a thing or two about media.

As ever, the Council talks in 'riddles' while it navel gazes and hopes the awkward volunteer will leave the room.

The real reason Councillors hate the idea of being recorded is simple - their words will be retained for posterity. Council minutes are simply engineered to be anodyne and uninformative. Sterile doesn't even explain them.

Coun Perkins and Coun Bluh have reason to 'hate' the spoken word. in the case of Coun Perkins his 'words' on Wi-Fi will haunt him forever BBC Radio 2 September 2011. Classic!!!

Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2012, 08:34:47 AM »
Quote
Does the Swindon News cost more than 35K a year to produce?

£90k at the last count

We currently produce six editions a year (24 page full colour magazine format). The £90k overall costs include all printing and distribution. (source SBC 26 November 2010)

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2012, 08:52:57 AM »
@Simon

Mini DV is pretty much a dead format in my opinion.  I love mini DV but even I moved to a proper HD & HDD camera a couple of years ago, and I'm still loving the near-instant import of a large video file into an editing suite.  The days of having to patiently wait while footage on a mini DV tape is captured in real-time by an editing suite are thankfully over.

The workstation I built for audio/video processing cost just under £900, doubtless SBC could inflate this figure into a couple of thousand, but the cost of a decent workstation is utterly insignificant compared to what this administration wastes every day. There is no real reason why SBC officers or equipment should be involved in this, and those that would, would be at the meeting anyway....

Almost every part of this process can be done by volunteers although I believe there would be a need for a suitably qualified officer to monitor the live-streaming of a meeting broadcast and any pre-publication video which is to be uploaded to youtube etc - there are some parts of some meetings which shouldn't/couldn't be broadcast. 

Presumably though, the Mayor, Borough Solicitor or any councillor for that matter, could ask for recording to be stopped while a particular non-broadcastable subject is dealt with.

This is far simpler and much cheaper, (virtually free in fact), to do than most councillors realise, but that won't stop them waxing lyrical on the basis of no practical experience or knowledge whatsoever..... :santa_grin:

Offline Simon

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2012, 10:48:06 PM »
Mini DV is pretty much a dead format in my opinion.  I love mini DV but even I moved to a proper HD & HDD camera a couple of years ago, and I'm still loving the near-instant import of a large video file into an editing suite.  The days of having to patiently wait while footage on a mini DV tape is captured in real-time by an editing suite are thankfully over.

You've got a camera with a disk drive inside? One of my friends borrowed one like that a few years ago to record a gig performed by some of our mutual friends, but it kept overheating  :santa_sad:

How do you transfer the footage from the camera from the PC? Nobody seems to make Firewire cards any more, and I imagine USB is a bit too slow for these sort of file sizes.

I do seem to be a bit behind the curve, one of my cameras is about 8 years old, the other 5 years old, maybe it's time for me to upgrade to the latest hardware. But I want to understand what I should be upgrading to first  :santa_smiley:

(apologies for digressing completely from the original topic)
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Offline Simon

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2012, 11:35:19 PM »
This is far simpler and much cheaper, (virtually free in fact), to do than most councillors realise, but that won't stop them waxing lyrical on the basis of no practical experience or knowledge whatsoever..... :santa_grin:

Yep, we may have different ideas about the technical implementation due to our differing levels of exposure to the process of filming something and putting it online, but I'd totally agree with you on that point.

Do any cllrs actually have any practical experience of filming something and then publishing a resulting video?

Maybe cllr Heenan should have got some amateurs (no offence intended Geoff) like me and Geoff, some local bods with experience like those who make the SwindonWeb videos, and some heavyweights from the likes of the Beeb and Sky, around a table, to thrash out things like what Geoff and I are discussing here and assess all the possible paths from council chamber to Swindon residents' screens, how much each one might cost, and decide which one works best for Swindon.

Instead he seems to have plucked the figure of £30k from thin air and decided that the project therefore isn't viable.
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2012, 12:07:23 AM »
Mini DV is pretty much a dead format in my opinion.  I love mini DV but even I moved to a proper HD & HDD camera a couple of years ago, and I'm still loving the near-instant import of a large video file into an editing suite.  The days of having to patiently wait while footage on a mini DV tape is captured in real-time by an editing suite are thankfully over.

You've got a camera with a disk drive inside? One of my friends borrowed one like that a few years ago to record a gig performed by some of our mutual friends, but it kept overheating  :santa_sad:

How do you transfer the footage from the camera from the PC? Nobody seems to make Firewire cards any more, and I imagine USB is a bit too slow for these sort of file sizes.

I do seem to be a bit behind the curve, one of my cameras is about 8 years old, the other 5 years old, maybe it's time for me to upgrade to the latest hardware. But I want to understand what I should be upgrading to first  :santa_smiley:

(apologies for digressing completely from the original topic)

My current camera, (already a couple of years old), is a Canon HG20.  60 gig HDD which I power with a couple of cheap Chinese hi capacity copies of the OEM's. Overheating has never been an issue.

It will film at several data rates between 5mbps and 24mbps. My old PC couldn't process anything over 10mbps without having a stroke, but the new one I built sneers at 24mbps Hi Def stuff and has really good rendering times for edited films. Download via USB 3.0 doesn't take as long as you might imagine - my Asrock Mobo also supports extra fast LAN & USB. Coupled with a moderately overclocked i7 and 8 processor cores hammering away at it a video file means that my video editing 'user-experience' is vastly improved compared to this time last year.

DaMellon did a similar pc build to mine although he's using an Asrock extreme 7 mobo - he's just about to whack a fairly pokey GPU into a spare pci slot, (I'm still using the onboard HD3000 graphics).  We're going to do a back to back rendering time comparison when he's configured it to see what the difference look like.

I haven't looked recently, but by now I would expect HD cameras with fairly hi capacity SSD's should be available. Not sure how reliable SSD's are yet, (I did think of using an SSD for my operating system), but when the bigger camera manufacturers start fitting them in the mid-price range I'll think about snagging one.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2012, 12:09:54 AM »

Oh, I would definitely describe myself as an amateur Simon, I like to build things, fix things and make things work....but that doesn't mean I'm any good with 'em*

* Apart from infernal combustion engines.  I've always been very good with engines  :santa_smiley:

Offline Mart

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2012, 04:07:03 PM »
I made a camera out of a cardboard box and a bit of paper once. I may have made everything upside down, or that might just have been me.

I think black paint was involved.

Anyway, broadcasting SBC meetings is 1/133 of a Croft overspend then? Wonder how much that is in reindeer......
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Offline Muggins

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2012, 04:29:43 PM »
I once made a wedding dress from a few yards of recycled fabric from Scrapstore, a very old lace curtain and even older cotton from a blanket factory.

I could do it again while watching a broadcast from SBC meeting. Can I join your club?

And I thought we were counting reindeer against the wifi?  Don't keep changing the goal posts.
Or it will be the pot calling the kettle black.

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Offline Mart

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Re: Broadcasting Swindon Borough Council Meetings
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2012, 05:00:12 PM »
1/15 of a WiFi.

Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.