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Hampshire County Council's live streaming of meetings attracts few viewers
12:33pm Thursday 26th July 2012 in Politics
IT HARDLY has the dramatic suspense of EastEnders or Coronation Street .
Neither does it have the comedy scripts of Yes Minister nor the family entertainment value of the X Factor .
And if its success was purely based on viewing figures it would almost certainly have been pulled from the TV schedules by now.
Viewing figures for Hampshire’s controversial “Ken TV” have plummeted in just six months.
Now there are calls for the plug to be pulled on the screening of live county council meetings – dubbed Ken TV after council leader Ken Thornber .
But bosses, who spent more than £220,000 of taxpayers’ cash to broadcast meetings live, stand by the scheme.
More than 800 people tuned in to watch the first televised budget setting meeting last February when the ruling Tories approved cuts of £45m.
But just 108 people watched May’s meeting while this month’s meeting attracted only 57 viewers.
Meanwhile a meeting of the ruling Cabinet last April was watched by 167 people either live on the council website or recorded footage.
Conservative Cllr Thornber revealed the figures at the council meeting, adding: “Maybe Cabinet is more popular than the council.”
A councillor from the Liberal Democrat benches shouted out: “More comedy” to laughter in the chamber.
As reported, the council spent £223,000 on audio, video and webstreaming equipment and paying an outside company to operate it.
County chiefs hoped to open up council meetings to a wider audience.
But Councillor Keith House , Liberal Democrat opposition spokesman, said: “The Liberal Democrats have always said this was a waste of money and could have helped keep library hours up or more buses or youth services in place.
“It’s always been a Conservative vanity project.”
Chrisine Melsom, co-ordinator of anti-council tax group IsItFair, said: “What a waste of money. I am not at all surprised because council meetings are terribly boring – and I am interested in local politics .”
Mrs Melsom said the broadcasts had a “novelty value” but viewers would quickly be turned-off by meetings lasting for hours, “waffle” and party political in-fighting.
However Councillor Colin Davidovitz, communications chief, said he was not disappointed by the viewing figures – and claimed it was a good use of taxpayers’ money.
He said: “It is to be expected. The first meeting was the budget setting meeting and there was a lot of interest. The Cabinet meeting also attracted interest as there was discussion about the amalgamation of a couple of schools.”
He added: “My daughter watches from Hong Kong to see what her father is up to.”
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