Policy Being Constructed for Live Streaming of Swanton Public Meetings

At their February 28 meeting, the Swanton Village Council discussed a draft of the policy written for the live streaming of the Village’s public meetings as a standard practice.  The new and unprecedented policy will now be reviewed by Swanton’s legal counsel before a vote is taken to approve and implement.

The document containing the policy is lengthy.  Below are some of the major points, as determined by the editor, spelled out in the document.

Purpose:  To provide community members with the most commonly requested information about Regular meetings and Special Meetings of Council (as well as Standing Committee Meetings, Boards and Commission Meetings).  Whenever the word “Meeting” is used the intent is to include all aforementioned meeting types.

Background/Content:  Council has adopted a number of procedural matters to be followed through its Meeting Procedures and Rules of the Council.  This governs the proceedings of all Meetings by prescribing the rules and protocols for proper meeting conduct and debate.  It is typical of meeting procedures used by local governing authorities.  By developing this policy, Council aims to provide timelier, cost effective and flexible reviews of certain provisions in Meetings, in particular, those that relate to the community engagement in Meetings.

Objectives:  Council intends to provide various opportunities for the community to participate, or to be acknowledged, and recognize improvements in technology and engagement practices at Meetings.  This policy also addresses the aspect of privacy in the provision of personal details at the meetings and outlines Council’s responsibility to be open and transparent in making material (including submissions, questions and petitions) available to the public.

Streaming Council Meetings:  Live streaming allows the public to view proceedings via the internet without the need to physically attend Meetings.  This gives greater access to Council debate and decisions and eliminates geographic barriers that may prevent the community from attending meetings.  By attending a Meeting, those present may be recorded or image captured, although all care is to be taken to maintain a person’s privacy as an attendee in the gallery.  By participating in a public meeting, those members of the public in attendance agree to be recorded.

The Chair has the discretion and authority at any time to direct the termination or interruption of live streaming if they believe it is advisable to do so.  Such direction will only be given in the exceptional circumstances, where the content of debate is considered misleading, defamatory or potentially inappropriate to be published.  Confidential Meetings are not recorded.

Access to Archived Recordings:  Meetings that are streamed live on the internet will later be archived and be available to be viewed by the public free of charge.  Archived recordings of meetings will be available for a period of 12 months.

Identified Risks and Mitigation Action:  Public Council meetings are an open forum of statements, questions and answers.  Occasionally, comments could be made which may be regarded as offensive, defamatory, inaccurate or contrary to the law.  By live streaming and publishing recordings of meetings, the potential audience is significantly increased, which also increases the likelihood and/or severity of potential liability.

It should be noted Council members, public officials and employees or the public may be held liable for comments made during meetings which are subsequently challenged in a court of law and determined to be inaccurate or slanderous.

Currently:  All Council meetings are recorded with audio only and are available upon request from the Village Administration.

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