After many municipalities have set up live streams of their municipalities during the lockdown, the first ones are going out again. Costs and additional work often outweigh the desire for greater transparency and proximity to the public.
Few viewers, high costs: for example, the ruling SPÖ in Bruck an der Mur is currently justifying the discontinuation of the city council’s video broadcasts. In the meantime, more and more municipalities are making the meetings digitally available. Graz, Bad Radkersburg, Gleisdorf, Trofaiach, Liezen, Mürzzuschlag and Hart bei Graz are some of the cities that have opted for this.
“In the past there were one or two viewers at the city council meetings, now we have 50 to 70 people watching live and 300 watching the video,” explains Christoph Stark, Mayor of Gleisdorf (ÖVP). “Of course this is technically and financially complex, but I think it makes sense because it promotes transparency.”
You probably have the most viewers in Graz, where former mayor Siegfried Nagl had a live stream set up in 2020. 1700 people watched the last session.
Legal stumbling blocks along the way
However, the task is not so simple. “Since 2019, according to the municipal code, there is the possibility to broadcast meetings,” explains Manfred Kindermann, head of the municipal legal department of the state of Styria. But there remain limitations. “You can always only see the speaker, not the plenum, not vote and especially not the spectators. That has to do with the right to protection of one’s own image.” After that, the video will only be available online for seven days. “This is for data protection reasons.”
In practice, this means changes for many municipalities. “All speakers should then go to the lectern and back, there are no spontaneous requests to speak,” explains Kurt Wallner, SPÖ mayor of Leoben and state president of the Styrian Association of Cities. In Leoben a decision was taken against broadcasts. “It’s not necessary,” said the mayor.
‘Only the opposition wants a live stream’
“It would be important in terms of transparency, but in practice it is too long-winded. People don’t have hours to watch. The meetings often last from 2 p.m. until late in the evening,” says Wallner. Aside from the opposition, he was “never approached about this idea”.
The state parliament has been taking a different path for 12 years now. “We are happy with many people showing an interest in state politics. With the offer of the live stream and the archive, we can simplify this access,” says Landtag President Manuela Khom (ÖVP), who directs the live broadcasts. Khom is convinced that the additional costs for the average 200 spectators will be worth it.
The current situation in the Neos communities is not transparent enough. That is why they advocate mandatory transfers in all municipalities with more than 5000 inhabitants.
“All Styria have deserved home communities that are close to the people,” said Niko Swatek, who plans to submit the application to the committee soon.
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