Last week, more than a year after Croydon Radio offered to record and podcast council meetings for no charge, council leader Mike Fisher stood on his hind legs to announce that the debates in the Town Hall chamber would be broadcast once again.
Only Fisher hadn’t bothered to discuss the matter in advance with the prospective broadcaster, Croydon Radio. ANDREW RENDLE reports
In this day and age there is no excuse for not opening up local government by using modern technology, especially as the public gallery at Croydon Town Hall is not easy to get to and the bare wooden pews can quickly bring on a nasty case of numb bum syndrome.
At last week’s full council meeting, I put it to the leader of the ruling Conservative group, Shirley councillor Mike Fisher, that Croydon’s practice of making important decisions in private made our council appear to be secretive and shady, acting without the best interests of the public at heart.
I asked Fisher, therefore, if he would consider broadcasting council proceedings. If a trial was carried out, I wanted to know how the council would support the broadcaster and what criteria would be used to judge the trial.
As I suspected, Fisher did not provide a straight answer – flattering as it was to see his written answer state that “I applaud Mr Rendle’s vigilance, as it is the vigilance of the public which protects our democratic institutions”.
But Fisher revealed the council would be running an experiment in conjunction with Croydon Radio. This came as a shock to the internet broadcaster, whose station director Tim Longhurst said, “No one from the council has made contact in order to progress or indeed confirm this.”
Having myself worked in broadcasting for nigh on 20 years, I know it is customary to approach a broadcaster before announcing they will be transmitting your event live.
I’m worried that the Conservative-run council, who ceased broadcasting meetings in 2009, really have no desire to see their conduct recorded and broadcast. Secrecy is the watchword for this Tory administration.
I’m also sure that the Conservative backbench councillor that I and others in the public gallery saw watching television on his tablet device, instead of listening to proceedings about benefit cuts and police station closures, would rather keep the media away. You can read the Inside Croydon on this Fitze of misjudgement here.
Any council meetings broadcast experiment must be properly promoted and the council has to provide full technical support to Croydon Radio. Also, it is vital the intricacies of Town Hall procedure be made clear to any broadcaster, who can then provide a proper commentary on proceedings with a degree of knowledge.
I have listened to Croydon Radio. As someone who was instrumental in winning a Sony Gold award for the Capital Radio Group I’m impressed with this voluntary station. I presume it operates with little money but that’s made up for with enthusiasm and a love of radio.
In contrast, I have seen no official council papers about broadcasting council meetings and I fear that any trial might be done in a slapdash manner that undermines the process and could offer an excuse for not continuing with it permanently.
I wish everyone involved the best of luck in this long overdue experiment, but I must ask Mike Fisher again: How will you support this important project and how will the council judge the outcome?
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 142,300 unique page views, Nov 2012-Jan 2013
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