Williamstown's 2017 Town Meeting to be Webcast

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WilliNet will livestream the annual town meeting. You can also follow along on Channel 17.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — With immigration and pollination on the agenda, Tuesday's annual town meeting will be taking on topics of national and global importance.
 
And thanks to the town's community access television station, anyone in the world will be able to follow the action live.
 
WilliNet will for the first time in its history Tuesday provide live streaming coverage of an event on its website, www.willinet.org, or its YouTube channel.
 
The 7 p.m. meeting has been carried live on WilliNet's cable channel for years, but this year the non-profit is experimenting with the webcast, Executive Director Deb Dane said.
 
"The technology has come far enough now that it's super easy," she said Monday at the station's Spring Street offices. "We've been talking about [a webcast] for years, but it required more hardware.
 
"Now, thanks to our production manager, Peter Nicholas, he's been able to find an inexpensive workaround, borrowing some technology from the gaming world."
 
Dane said she would not want anyone to watch the webcast instead of going to town meeting and participating in the democratic process. But that was always a possibility with the live telecast as well.
 
The way she sees it, Tuesday's experiment is about opening a window to the world and exposing the town meeting to an audience that cannot see it in person.
 
"At a minimum, we're still encouraging civic engagement through a variety of platforms," Dane said. "If people don't come to the meeting and can only watch online because they don't have Spectrum, that's great.
 
"And it allows people outside the community to see our town meeting."
 
Dane said the channel has no immediate plans to start putting more meetings or events on its website live. Most meeting telecasts already are available within a day or two on the website, but the live telecasts will continue to go out only on cable TV for the foreseeable future.
 
And WilliNet, which receives 90 percent of its revenue from a small percentage of cable TV fees, is not encouraging anyone to "cut the cord."
 
For now, the channel is looking to see how Tuesday goes and evaluate future moves.
 
On another digital front, WilliNet is moving forward with a redesign and relaunch of its website, hopefully by September.
 
Dane said the current site, designed by herself and members of the WilliNet's volunteer board of directors, has been "a real workhorse," but it's old and has not been updated as its webhost has updated its technology.
 
The station has been working with web designer Kate Shawber of Leuridan Labs just across the state line in New York to develop a site that is more user friendly and eye-catching while still providing web versions of WilliNet productions, schedule information for the station's three channels and a community bulletin board.
 
"We've been in the design phase for more than several months, and we just landed on our design, which I'm really happy with," Dane said.

Tags: town meeting 2017,   WilliNet,   

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