Council TV to be a reality in Essex?

COUNCIL TV? It could soon be coming to residents in Essex after plans were put forward to broadcast meetings and interviews over the internet.

Elliot Furniss

COUNCIL TV? It could soon be coming to residents in Essex after plans were put forward to broadcast meetings and interviews over the internet.

The proposals, set to be discussed by Essex County Council next week, would also see online coverage of public events and video diaries looking at “a day in the life” of councillors and staff.

The idea will be put to the council's various policy and scrutiny committees at upcoming meetings and the work will be undertaken in partnership with webcasting specialists Public-I.

Some meetings have already been shown online but reliability issues with the council's EssexWorks website and the irregularity of webcasts has limited public take-up.

A report on the proposed pilot project said the transmission of meetings would be an “effective tool” to engage with local residents and would highlight the work of members.

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People on the streets of Colchester gave a mixed response to the proposals yesterday. Some felt the idea would work in principal but might struggle to find an audience, while others saw the move as a waste of time and money.

Janet Aivey, 73, from Harwich, said there were “an awful lot of people” who did not use the internet and never would.

She said: “I think there's better ways of spending money. Maybe it's the wrong time, in view of the fact that we have got a huge ageing population in the county.

“If it doesn't apply to your corner of Essex then why would you bother?”

Douglas Gibbs, 86, from Great Bentley, said he himself would not bother with the service, but he felt it was something that could help provide people with important information about how the council works.

He said: “For some folks, it's ok - they should know what's going on. I agree with knowledge being passed on to folks - knowledge is a good educator and how can you moan if you haven't had a look at what's going on?”

Art students Joe Stone, 21, from Highwoods, Colchester, and Sam Knott, 23, from Coggeshall, felt it was a good idea to try to use modern technology to communicate with residents.

Mr Stone said: “It depends what the meetings are about. I think it's a nice idea in theory, but I'm not sure how interesting or useful it would all be to the common man, like myself.”

Mr Knott questioned whether it was a good time to introduce such a move, but felt the idea of broadcasting meetings was worth exploring in the future.

Yvonne Carter, 46, of Layer Road, Colchester, said that in the current economic situation everyone had their own problems to worry about and people would tend to only tune in if something they cared about was being discussed.

She said: “Yes, I think it's a good idea - whether I would actually do it, I don't know.

“I think if it was a meeting you're interested in, then yes - especially with what's going on with the schools in Colchester at the moment.”

Cheryl Wood, 26, a shop manager who lives in Maldon, said she would not log on to watch a meeting or watch an interview with a council member and felt people would have more important things to worry about.

She said: “Everybody is focussed on their own lives. I don't think it's a good use of money and I really couldn't care less.”