ORANGE : Council Weighs Trial Telecasts of Meetings

The city may begin televising council meetings on a trial basis by mid-July, officials said this week.

For six weeks, probably beginning July 12, council meetings would be telecast live and on tape delay. Cablevision of Orange has agreed to pay $6,000 to fund the trial program.

The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Tuesday. At their last meeting, council members directed city staff to establish a firm schedule for the trial cable program.

Initially, the trial period was going to be three weeks, but several council members said that would not give residents enough time to learn about the value of the telecasts. Local cable company officials later said they would fund the telecasts for three additional council meetings.

"I think it's important for the public to get a representative sample of what goes on at council meetings," said Councilman Mark Murphy, who led the drive to bring TV cameras to council chambers. "Three meetings wouldn't be enough."

Mayor Gene Beyer and Councilman Fred L. Barrera oppose televising council meetings. The mayor said a viewer survey should be completed before initiating television coverage in order to verify that there is sufficient community interest.

"It's a luxury the city can't afford right now," Barrera said.

Depending on what technology the city chooses, start-up costs for cable coverage would reach $163,400 for robotic cameras and a City Hall control room, or they could be as low as $19,200 for a single camera operator, according to city estimates. Thereafter, recurring annual costs could reach $38,400 if the city opts for a control room, or stay at $19,200 if it chooses to go with the lone camera operator, estimates show.

The city is one of only nine in the county that does not telecast its council meetings.

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