Our say | Time to take democracy to the lounge room

IF there’s one surefire way to get something done in Bathurst, it’s to simply say that Orange has done it first.

Our city prides itself on being a regional leader and it’s not often we’re beaten to the punch.

A rare exception, though, has been the question of live streaming council meetings to allow residents to tune in from the comfort of their home.

Orange City Council voted last week to call for expressions of interest from businesses with expertise in audio and visual recording to record meetings that would be broadcast live to people’s lounge rooms.

A report to councillors had recommended live audio recording only, but councillors voted to make it a full live streaming service.

It was a significant decision in the early days of a new council, and one that augurs well for an open and transparent term of council.

Now we wait to see how Bathurst councillors will respond, and the signs so far are good.

Councillor Jess Jennings first proposed live streaming four years ago but the idea went no further than that.

However, the world is a different place now and the cost of installing quality sound and video recording equipment is likely to be a fraction of what it once was.

Just as importantly, more and more we live in a world where people expect immediacy and live streaming of council meetings can deliver just that.

The real question, though, is just how well used would such a service be?

The paltry turnout in the public gallery at monthly meetings could suggest people have scant interest in council affairs, or don’t have the time to get to the meetings.

An investment in live streaming would be taking a gamble on the latter being the case, but that’s a gamble worth taking.

If people won’t come to the meetings to learn how their elected representatives are performing, then council should certainly investigate taking the meetings to the people.

An effective democracy is one where people are engaged, and giving people the chance to be engaged is an important part of that.

A live stream of a council meeting won’t be everyone’s idea of great evening viewing but councillors should do whatever it takes to make it happen here.

And if we can start streaming before Orange, then so much the better.