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Lights, camera, Atascadero

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Atascadero’s government meetings will stay on the air despite a city budget crisis. On April 28, city council members voted unanimously to continue broadcasting city meetings on TV and the Internet.

City staff proposed to cut online streams and archives of the City Council’s bi-monthly meeting in addition to stopping all video recording of Planning Commission meetings. In total, the cuts would save about $25,000 per year. Atascadero began contracting in early 2007 with AGP Video, Inc. to record city meetings.

Council members voted to continue with the current contract even though it expires next week. They did, however, ask the city staff to come back with new suggestions that would reduce the cost to the city, but not limit public access to broadcasts. A new contract will be drafted once the city has weighed all its options.

AGP co-owner Nancy Castle said other local cities the company contracts with have tried reducing “on demand” online streams, opting instead to stream online broadcasts on the same schedule as the TV.

“I really feel in these times of economic changes that it’s even more important to have transparency of government,” Castle said in a phone interview before council members voted.

No one from the public spoke in favor of reducing the broadcasts. The city also broadcasts on TV and radio, but many people argued there should be as much transparency as possible.

“Please, please, maintain what we have now and don’t cut a thing,” David Broadwater said.

Councilman Jerry Clay was reluctant to maintain the same level of service when other city services and a few jobs are on the chopping block. Clay still voted to temporarily extend the contract with AGP, but suggested broadcasting just audio instead of video, which is more expensive to broadcast.

The council will make a more permanent decision at a later date when a new proposal is made to cut costs without significantly reducing broadcasts.

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