In an effort to further promote transparency in Aiken City Government, City Council has arranged a six-month trial program to create a video record of Council meetings. The City has enlisted Aiken Communications, Inc., the parent company of The Aiken Standard, in a joint test to record and archive public Council proceedings. The City’s YouTube page, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHtMErIZ0_lu5v3kJAzPitg allows the ability to show the live proceedings that can be viewed on a computer, smart phone, tablet or a number of Internet devices. In addition, it will also provide an archived viewing within 72 hours of council discussions and votes cataloged by date and agenda item.
Sitting at an unobtrusive control panel in the back of the chamber, producer James Grigsby operates three small cameras attached to the chamber ceiling that he can pan, tilt and zoom independently, focusing on council members, speakers at the podium and citizens in the room.
The live view streams to the City site using YouTube, a service provided without charge to governments. Aiken Communications had the necessary equipment says Audience Development Director Tim O’Briant. The City is paying Aiken Communications $1,500 a month for a total of $9,000 that O’Briant said covers personnel costs. After the trial period, both Council and the company will evaluate whether the service is providing value to the company and the public. “At that point we can tell exactly how many people are watching, how long each person watched, whether they watched the whole meeting or a couple of minutes. We hope it allows us to determine how much engagement there has been with the video,” said O’Briant. The company will not be able to determine who that viewer is, nor their address.