Columbia City Council to begin televising work sessions

Anthony proposes change in effort to promote transparency
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 7:11 p.m. CST; updated 11:20 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 9, 2011

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents soon will be able to watch City Council work sessions and meetings of the Citizens Police Review Board on television.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony proposed the idea of broadcasting the meetings on the city's government access cable channel. Council members approved the idea at their Monday night meeting.

"We have some substantive conversations," Anthony said. "(This is) part of open, transparent governance."

Anthony also said the broadcasts could encourage the public to become more involved with city government.

Work sessions, previously held in smaller conference rooms at city hall, now will be moved to the Council Chambers because it's already equipped with cameras, microphones and other necessary equipment, the city's Public Communications Director Toni Messina said. 

Mayor Bob McDavid said he would be interested in finding out how much it would cost to equip smaller conference rooms, but he and his council members were fine with moving work sessions to their chambers for now.

The City Channel runs a continuous loop of programming every hour, so televising more meetings will partially change the programming.

"If we do have to cut down on some other programs, I can't think of information that's more important to the public than what we do at our meetings," Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.

Broadcasting more meetings also could potentially change the assignments of staff who work to produce shows for the channel. Messina said employees are limited in the number of hours they can work before the city has to pay them overtime.

While no specific date has been set for when the new broadcasts will begin, the City Council expects it to happen soon.

"We have to make sure we all understand what the council is expecting, and we can go ahead and get started on it," Messina said. 

The City Channel airs on Mediacom Channel 80, Charter Communications Channel 2 and CenturyLink Channel 601.

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