Webcasting woes at Newcastle council 

NEWCASTLE City Council could have bought ‘‘a $39 webcam’’ to broadcast meetings instead of a faulty $30,000 system that has been offline for months, the head of tech lobby Digital Newcastle said on Wednesday.

The webcast system was beset with ‘‘technical difficulties’’ when it was first scheduled to begin in early October.

Later that month, the webcast had another false start because the council was ‘‘still fine tuning the equipment’’.

On Tuesday, about an hour before the webcast was due to go live, the council said the stream would be unavailable because ‘‘a component of the operating system is faulty and has been returned to the manufacturer’’.

The head of Digital Newcastle and the Lunaticks Society, Gordon Whitehead, said the council’s expensive system was ‘‘antiquated’’.

‘‘The [streaming] platform they’re using can’t be accessed by people on mobile or iPads,’’ he said.

Mr Whitehead said webcasting was important for making council debates open and accessible, but that innovative local companies could have provided a cheaper and more effective alternative.

In July last year, the council approved an additional $10,000 for webcasting, on top of $20,000 already budgeted, in order to purchase a system ‘‘sympathetic to the heritage decor of the council chamber’’.

If and when the system becomes operational, it will involve four cameras mounted in the corners of the council chamber. Cameras will be programmed to zoom in when a particular microphone is switched on.

In a statement yesterday, the council said it was believed an electrical storm on Monday night may have triggered the latest error.

The hardware had been collected by the manufacturer for inspection and repair.

The system is under warranty and a replacement is expected in time for  next Tuesday’s meeting.

Port Stephens Council, recently pulled the plug on its live online stream, voting in December to dismantle a $19,200 system.

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