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Televise the meetings already!

By   /   November 8, 2012  /   Comments

The Albany City Commission tabled a discussion on Tuesday. That discussion was about allowing the television stations to stream commission meetings live to the internet. Honestly, it’s beyond time that this happen, and opposition to this is either misguided or else about maintaining a level of secrecy.
Albany’s local government has never had a reputation for being “open”. That is something I have lamented repeatedly through the years. Part of that is the time when so many of the commission’s meetings are scheduled. Work sessions are scheduled for the mornings, and they typically run until noon. Guess what most people are doing during that time?

By streaming commission meetings, many could watch commission meetings from the comfort of their own home or office (if their employer agrees). Not only that, but streaming data can also be posted for viewing later. Folks who don’t get to watch the commission meetings live can view them later.

Now, apparently a certain commissioner with a history of saying dumb things is arguing against this on the grounds that not everyone has a computer. First, most people these days do. The lack of some to partake in something is no reason to shut everyone else out. Also, what about this proposal means those people can’t come directly to meetings if they want? Oh yeah, that would be: nothing.

Arguments against this typically stem from fear. Commissioners may well be afraid that gaffes will be recorded and shared all over social media. It’s a valid fear, but also a pointless one. WALB and WFXL both attend commission meetings with their cameras. They’re recording, and their gaffes can be recorded as well. Guess what happens when Channel 10 records that?

Another factor may also be far more duplicitous. By keeping out the live broadcast, they keep commission meetings to themselves. By making it difficult to participate in the process, they keep it to a handful of “elites” who have the time and ability to show up to four hour meetings during the work day.

Is the reason any of these? Maybe. It may also be none of those. I don’t know what is in anyone’s head except mine. I can only go with what my gut and my heart tells me on those fronts. However, my head tells me that there aren’t really any good reasons to withhold this kind of access to thousands of Albanians. None.

Television, internet, whatever. Give people the tools to be involved with what is going on in this town, and you will see people become more engaged with improving the town as a whole.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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