By Nick Bernard
Minden Hills council has made a commitment to continue its discussion on a recent draft policy centred around video recording and livestreaming of council meetings.
On the advent of the pandemic’s first wave, businesses around the world were forced to adapt to the rapid changes that the effort to contain COVID-19 required, council of Minden Hills included. Since the beginning of the pandemic, council has been conducted through YouTube livestream, made available to the public only while council is in session.
At their meeting on Feb 24, deputy clerk Vicki Bull sought the approval of a video recordings and livestreaming of meetings policy. The policy, which was compiled as a draft last year, outlines a number of efforts to improve accessibility, transparency, and community participation with the decision making processes within the government of Minden Hills.
A revised version of the policy was what was presented, following a legal review. The suggested revisions to the policy include the following:
• Video records will only be available while council is in session. In the draft policy, records were to be available to the public for the current year, plus one year thereafter.
• Unless otherwise indicated, copyright to the recordings of meetings made is owned by the municipality. Permission is required to produce or reproduce the recordings, or any substantial part of such recordings, for personal, non-commercial, educational and news reporting purposes. This is new language added to the policy, which serves as a risk mitigation clause against unauthorized use of council meetings.
While Bull was expecting a swift passing of the policy, a number of concerns were raised that prompted the conversation’s deferral to another date.
Councillor Pam Sayne expressed her hope for a compromise on the availability of council meeting livestreams after the fact.
“I think people are at work during our council meetings, I would like to see this up at least for a couple days that people can have access to what’s going on at council,” she said. “I think this Zoom opportunity allows us to do this, and so I would like to see that live for … a period of time so people who are working during the council meetings still have access to be informed and talk to their local councillors about things that they see or would like to have more input into.”
Bull explained that they did possess the ability to make the meetings public for any length of time, as it is a simple administrative function on YouTube’s backend. Chief administrative officer Tricia McKibbin stated that keeping the meetings available would be easier, from an administrative professional.
“[Deputy clerk Shannon Prentice] is actually the one that goes [to change the settings],” McKibbin said, describing the livestream process in broad terms. “I don’t see it being an issue.”
Councillor Jennifer Hughey commented on the versatility of YouTube as a platform, and its ease of use regarding administrative changes of this type.
“YouTube has a lot of capabilities – it depends on our subscription … there are specifics that come with a free application or a paid application,” Hughey said. “Secondarily – and this is just my professional opinion, because I do work with YouTube quite a bit – keeping something up for an extended period of time … does increase the certain liabilities you may think comes along with it.”
Liability was also the primary concern of Councillor Bob Carter, who voiced his concern over the availability of meetings leaving them open to misuse.
“I’d like to understand all of the ramifications of keeping [meetings] up there,” he said. “Can it be copied, so on and so forth. If we’re going to look at this and do something different from what we proposed, let’s really look at it.”
The conversation is expected to continue with the possibility of a final resolution on Mar. 10.
The draft policy is available to view on the Minden Hills website: mindenhills.civicweb.net/portal/