Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Move over Big Brother, it’s time for My Council Rules

Blake and Louise from the reality TV show, The Bachelor Australia. Still: Channel 10
IN Asia, and the Middle East, and all the places in the world where the people have to fight for it, it’s reasonable to look at the struggle for political freedom and ask — “What price democracy?”
In those places, who can say?
But if you live in a particular borough of Adelaide, the answer is about $900 a week.
That’s how much the good ratepayers of the City of Prospect have apparently been shelling out for the council’s weekly meetings to be video recorded and uploaded to YouTube for anyone who should want to keep an eye on the inner-workings of their council without actually having to attend.
The outrage was revealed in a staff report and those around the council table were suitably shocked and troubled.
According to the report, they’ve been doing it for a massive weekly prime time audience of about 30 people a week! (Or slightly better ratings than Songs of Praise on the ABC).
“My council doing similar with audio recording — not much interest, unfortunately,” Marion mayor Felicity-ann Lewis (and past president of the Local Government Association) lamented in a tweet.
Here’s the thing — councils like Prospect and Marion should be applauded for at least trying to take democracy to the people, even when the people can’t (or have never been so moved) to come to it.
But $44,000 a year? C’mon, it’s 2014.
There’s a long list of free, or relatively cheap, and easy-to-use platforms on the market (Google Hangouts, Ustream, Spreecast) that let you broadcast live via the internet, and capture your results for playback later.
But even if our councils can get their costs down, clearly they are suffering from an audience engagement problem.
Luckily, I’ve got an idea to get the masses tuning in. Let’s turn weekly council meetings into a reality TV experience, with all the most compelling bits from the genre — a weekly rose ceremony, election immunity for the most popular councillors (as voted by you!) and weekly cost-cutting challenges to balance the budget.
Councils are already accustomed to expelling rogue members from the chamber. Hello??? Live eviction.
But what to call it? “My Council Rules”? “The Shire”? (already taken) “The Block — Planning Approval Edition”?
I don’t know about you, but I’d watch the pants off that.