Franklin begins charging for DVDs of council meetings

Published 8:38 am Friday, November 5, 2010

FRANKLIN—After the City Council’s first meeting in July, recordings of council meetings became somewhat of a hot item.

“We were getting just tons and tons of requests,” said Erin Turner, the city’s executive assistant. “Everyday it was another one or two coming in.”

Demand was so high the city started charging $2 for DVDs of the meetings in September. The city treats requests for the DVDs as Freedom of Information Act requests and staff members have five days to produce the copies.

Mayor Jim Councill said he was surprised to learn so many people were requesting meeting DVDs.

“I’m pleasantly pleased that people are taking an active interest in what goes on at City Council,” he said. “I think that’s great for the community so the citizens can be well informed.”

Councilman Don Blythe, who took his seat in July, said issues that have been brought to light in the meetings have likely sparked citizens’ interest.

“When you have that response, that shows people are paying attention and are interested in what is going on in the city,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing.”

The $2 fee covers the cost of materials and staff time required to reproduce the DVDs, Turner said. But since it was instituted, requests have fallen off sharply.

“After the last meeting we had two people come in and make requests,” she said. “Before, we were making nine or 10 copies for folks.”

Turner said she doesn’t know whether the drop in demand is related to the price of the DVDs or whether it has to do with the content of the meetings.

“It could change,” she said of the number of requests. “Next meeting it could be back up.”

Council meetings have been recorded on video since last year when the city started airing meetings on its Public, Educational and Government, or PEG channel on Charter Communications cable. Before that, audio recordings of meetings were made available, Turner said.

“We broadcast (the meetings) frequently, so I’m hoping it’s reaching most people who have an interest,” Councill said. “If they need a DVD because they’re missing the meeting, I think that’s fine.”

Blythe said Wednesday he was concerned and had spoken with the city manager about technical difficulties that have kept recent meetings from re-airing on the PEG channel at times.