Town of Gibsons council adopted a new media policy July 17, amending a draft proposal that originally called upon documenters to “agree to ensure the recording will not be edited in a way that could lead to misinterpretation of the proceedings.”
“I thank council for being willing to make that change,” said Coun. Dan Bouman.
The requirement was removed after members of council debated the new policy July 10, when a committee of the whole meeting tackled how to handle requests from community members wanting to record meetings.
Bouman had opposed a draft application form that called upon residents to agree to use the footage in a way that “may ridicule or show a lack of respect or be used for political advertising.”
Included on the list of possible misinterpretations through edit were election ads, disrespect and ridicule or “any other partisan political activity”
Coun. Gerry Tretick said his personal experiences had led him to worry that recordings of council could be used to promote special agendas.
“That’s my fear,” he said. “So my suggestion to remedy that is anything that is filmed in these chambers becomes the property of the Town and will be distributed by the Town and not by individuals.”
The difficulty rests with the public nature of municipal proceedings, meaning citizens have a right to record the meetings should they wish.
“I understand that part,” Tretick said. “But what bothers me is misuse of information to undermine the process of council.”
Letters to the editor, Facebook comments and other types of public forums have at times been the arena for slander, misrepresentation, “undermining of council direction” and personal attacks, he argued.
“I’ve had it personally used against me,” Tretick said. “People do those things. We have to make sure that it is used for the intended purpose, which is to communicate what is happening in the council chamber.”
Mayor Wayne Rowe said he felt the draft application form handled some of Tretick’s concerns.
Were the draft application form adopted as presented to the committee, a person’s signature would espouse an understanding that the Town can decide where equipment is set up.
Whomever is chairing the meeting could also hold the right to stop the recordings, should they feel the equipment or operators to be disrupting the meeting in any way.
The form required applicants to retain and possibly share, by request, their unedited recordings for as long as four months.
Also on the list was a requirement that recordings were made from a fixed position “in normal view.
“Failure to comply with the Council’s requirements may lead to the refusal of any future requests to record Council meetings,” it read.
“Does this get in to Charter issues?” Coun. Lee Ann Johnson wondered.
“I think I have a right too,” Tretick responded. “What I would really like to underline is, if this is abuse, that we take very clear action so that there is a message out there that the purpose of this is to inform the public.”
Warren Waycheshen, the Town’s chief administrator, added that Gibsons could be able to respond to misuse of recordings, if they had access to the originals.
Rowe said a solution that provided the Town with structure in its dealings with recordings would be preferable.
“We’re better to come up with a policy that does give us the ability to at least set some rules and parameters, because sooner or later we’re going to be faced with an outright challenge,” Rowe said. “Somebody will show up with a camera.”