Net fame looms for miked up Cork councillors

Cork City Hall officials have invited tenders for the installation of an audio and voting system in the council's historic chamber.

Break out the popcorn — Cork City’s local politicians are getting microphones for their public meetings amid renewed talk that the proceedings could be streamed online to the world.

The city council has invited tenders for the design and installation of a state-of-the-art Leinster House-style audio and voting system in Cork City Hall’s historic council chamber.

But officials have also asked tenderers to design a system which could facilitate a remotely operating camera which would live stream council meetings over the internet.

The council’s request on the e-Tenders website comes just weeks after officials ruled out webcasting of council meetings on cost grounds.

However, the new tender raises the possibility that the bimonthly council meetings could be streamed online at a later date, if councillors sanction the move.

The acoustics in the historic council chamber are poor. Only the Lord Mayor, the chief executive, and the meetings administrator have dedicated microphones.

In recent months, city officials have begun using a wireless microphone to answer questions from the floor.

But the 31 councillors have never had their own microphones during the public meetings, which has led to complaints that contributions to important debates cannot be heard.

The new tender invites tenderers to provide a flexible 43-microphone system — three fixed, 37 mobile, and three wireless hand-held — that would provide each councillor and each official with his or her own microphone.

They would like the councillors’ microphone devices to have a series of buttons on the base, including a request to talk button, which when pressed will place the person in a queue, voting buttons labelled abstain, for and against, and an in-attendance button.

The new system should also give power to the meeting chairperson, usually the Lord Mayor, to accept queued speakers, or even turn their microphones off.

The system should be designed to allow for other source inputs from laptops, iPods, or mP3s, it should have a deaf loop, and provide a minimum of four group outputs to provide for possible future video streaming of council chamber proceedings.

“An automatic camera selection system whereby the camera will automatically point to the speaker will be allowed for, as an option,” the tender says.

Cllr Ted Tynan questioned chief executive Ann Doherty about the issue at last night’s council meeting.

She said it was in response to constant complaints about the acoustics in the council chamber.


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