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Brighton and Hove's Open Door webcasts: how they work and why they're great

By January 21, 2013 2 Comments

On Monday last week Brighton and Hove City Council invited me in to watch the Open Door live webcast, in which council leader Jason Kitcat answered residents’ questions put to him on Twitter.

This was the fourth Open Door event Brighton and Hove has held. Residents are able to use the hashtag #BHOpenDoor or a CoveritLive blog to quiz Jason on a specific topic – with their questions put to the leader by a local journalist or public figure.

While last week’s event was about the budget, there have also been Open Doors held on the council’s One Living Planet agenda and transport and parking, as well as a previous Q&A on finance matters. Since they were started in November the webcasts have proved popular: the latest attracted more than 127 live views and a further 356 in the seven days since it was archived. Together the three previous meetings have had more than 3,000 views.

The events are jointly run by the democratic services and communications teams. While Aaron Robin and his team took care of the webcasting kit, Corinna Allen, Jake Barlow and the comms team took care of Twitter and the liveblog, picking out and relaying questions to the interviewer, who on this occasion was Tim Ridgway from local paper, the Brighton and Hove Argus.

The half-hour interview, hosted in the Council Chamber at Hove Town Hall, went by in a flash, with Corinna passing questions from Twitter and the CoveritLive to a screen set up for Tim.

The webcast was embedded on to the Argus’s own website as well as being available on the council’s own site – no doubt helping to increase the number of people who would have had the chance to watch. There were also plenty of tweets from the council on its @BrightonHoveCC Twitter account to promote the event, too.

Afterwards I got a few minutes to chat to Jason about how he sees this working and why it’s been so embraced by the council. Please play the video to listen to Jason’s thoughts.

As Jason says, this offers the council the chance to change the terms of the debate – and give more information about the important issues facing the council. There are not many more important subjects than the budget – and Jason had to deal with questions on the increase in council tax, parking in the city, investment in sport and the council’s decision to pay a living wage.

It’s a smart use of the webcasting system, but also a great way to reach out to different audiences who might be less likely to sit through a council meeting or even read a local paper or blog. For me, however, what makes it so interesting is that Brighton and Hove – along with the likes of Cornwall, Bristol and Kirklees – is looking to see how a webcasting audience can become a community that can talk to and challenge the council, taking part in a genuine conversation.

The next Open Door will be on the 11th of February. Check this page out on Brighton and Hove’s website for all the information

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