SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The town of South Kingstown might drop its live broadcasts of Town Council meetings on a local public access cable channel, opting instead to use a free re-broadcast of the recorded meeting at a different time.
The town would continue to produce a live internet stream of the council meetings, Town Manager Rob Zarnetske told the council Oct. 28.
The move comes as the town’s three-year contract with Cox Communications for the live cable broadcasts was set to expire Oct. 31.
The cost of the three-year contract was $31,500, and Cox is looking for another three-year commitment if the town were to renew.
The town broadcasts live to the Rhode Island Public Broadcast Service approximately 24 Town Council meetings per year. A DVD also is provided for rebroadcast the day after each scheduled meeting.
“The question has been, do we go to re-broadcasting of the disc on Tuesdays/Wednesdays, or do we stick with broadcasting live on Monday nights,” Zarnetske said. “The live broadcasting costs us $10,000 per year. We believe that if we take those $10,000 and put them to producing discs for other committees, we can actually get more public disclosure, more transparency across the full range of activities.”
He said the alternative plan would still allow for public access broadcast of the meetings, but on a different day.
Zarnetske said the town has reached out to see if anyone in town depends on viewing the meetings live on Monday nights on television, but has not received any responses.
There is no cost for the re-broadcast, according to the town’s information technology director, Lori-Ann Fox.
The live streaming via the internet is provided through the town’s Clerkbase software. The annual cost for video streaming and archiving of prior meetings is $6,000.
Fox said more people are using devices such as tablets and phones to view television content and that the town averages 52 online viewers per meeting. Viewership numbers are not available for the public access broadcast, Fox said.
Also, the broadcast on public access only reaches those in the South County viewing area, whereas internet streaming can be viewed around the world.
Fox also said the funds could be used instead to have more meetings streamed over the internet.
If the town decides to continue the live broadcasts, it would need to budget for replacement and upgrading of encoding devices for about $5,000, Fox said.
Zarnetske said he intends to work with Cox and get a council resolution ready for the next meeting.