Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fish And Boat Commission May Take Meetings To Web

By Bob Fry, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has tried a lot of things over the years to draw more people to its quarterly meetings, always with limited success. Now it’s got a new idea.
It may take the meetings to them.
The commission is exploring the idea of livestreaming its meetings over the web.
“It’s the wave of the future,” commission executive director John Arway said.
Whether that future is now is the question, though.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission already streams portions of its meetings — all but the time when public comment is offered — over the web. That’s not drawing huge crowds just yet.
A counter that shows up when someone views the webcast has shown that, at times, viewership has been less than 10 people.
Arway noted that when he was watching a portion of the Game Commission board’s last work group session, there were just eight viewers, including himself and another Fish and Boat Commission staffer.
That’s got some wondering whether the cost of livestreaming meetings — it would run the Fish and Boat Commission between $2,500 and $4,000 per year — is worth it.
“If (the Game Commission) got eight, we’ll get four. And one will be a staffer,” commissioner Bill Sabatose of Elk County said. “I’m not sure it’s worth the money, unless it’s the future.”
Joe Neville, head of the Game Commission’s bureau of information and education, believes viewership of that agency’s webcasts will grow. Already, though, offering them is the right thing to do, he said.
“It’s all about transparency and letting the public see what we do and how decisions are made,” he said. “We can’t make them watch, but we can make it available.”
Ted Walke, director of the Fish and Boat Commission’s division of outreach, told the board that they might want to move ahead with livestreaming for that reason, as well as for the convenience it offers anglers and boaters. He warned, though, that while webcasts are a form of media people are increasingly familiar with, there might be some lag time between when they first become available and when people start to watch them in numbers.
“There’s a guarantee you’re going to reach more people,” Walke said. “To quantify that, that’s the unknown.”
Commissioners directed Arway to solicit comment from the public on whether webcasts are something they want. The answer could help decide how to proceed, commissioner Bill Worobec of Lycoming County said.
“Let’s find out if they care,” he said

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