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Council webcasts aren't a ratings winner

County Hall, Maidstone. Protest against plans to build a waste recycling plant in Sellindge. Planning meeting in progress. Picture by: Simon Hildrew
County Hall, Maidstone. Protest against plans to build a waste recycling plant in Sellindge. Planning meeting in progress. Picture by: Simon Hildrew

A meeting in progress at County Hall. Picture by: Simon Hildrew

by political editor Paul Francis

Audience figures for live webcasts of meetings at County Hall show many are being watched by fewer than 100 people.

Viewing figures for 72 of 81 meetings streamed over the internet only reached double figures - with a handful attracting no viewers at all while the cameras rolled.

An analysis of data released to the KM Group under the Freedom of Information Act shows 5,766 people watched committee broadcasts as they happened between April 2010 to March this year.

Roger Gough
Roger Gough

However, the overall total, incorporating those that watched archived clips from meetings after they happened, was significantly higher at just over 20,000.

KCC spends about £20,000 a year streaming live meetings and making them available on its website to view later.

Meetings of KCC’s Conservative-run cabinet and full council meetings proved most popular for 'live’ audiences but even figures for these were modest.

Cabinet meetings attracted a total of 633 viewers - an average of about 70 per meeting.

The single most popular meeting over the year was a full council meeting held in December 2010, when 586 were recorded as watching the live stream.

Items discussed at the meeting included controversial plans to sell off and privatise old peoples homes.

But live democracy did not prove much of a hit for four meetings, which failed to attract a single viewer.

The highest number recorded as watching a live cabinet meeting was 148 last October but that was only one of two to exceed three figures over the year.


Click here to read our political editor Paul's view


The four meetings that attracted no live watchers were: scrutiny board meeting (March 2011); cabinet scrutiny (Feb 2011); governance and audit committee (November 2010) and the Kent Rail summit (October 2010).

Cllr Roger Gough, KCC cabinet member for business strategy and support, accepted the figures were relatively modest but said the webcasts were an important part of the council’s efforts to be open.

"I think we have got to be realistic. We are not going to get X Factor type audiences but the sums we spend are relatively modest.

"We have been doing this for a while and see webcasts as an important part of our openness agenda.

"It is only reasonable that we give people the opportunity to see what we are up to - it is an important principle."

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