Union Bay is located 20 kilometres south of Courtenay. Photo courtesy JET Productions.

Camera malfunction means no video for January UBID meeting

Another mishap regarding video footage of a council meeting has surfaced in Union Bay.

The video for the January board meeting of the Union Bay Improvement District could not be posted on its website due to a technical error.

The error marks the second time in recent months that missing video footage has impacted UBID meetings. Seventeen minutes of footage from the November 2017 board meeting was inadvertently deleted when the video was posted to the improvement district’s site a few weeks later.

Read More: Erased video footage puts blight on Union Bay Improvement District

According to UBID chief administrative officer Gord Mason, the holder for the camera’s memory card malfunctioned and the Jan. 18 meeting was not recorded. He said the camera has since been sent to the manufacturer for replacement or repairs.

UBID’s videos are the only allowed recordings of its meetings. The improvement district passed Bylaw 270 last year, which states that only UBID may record and upload footage of its public proceedings.

The new rule amended a portion of Bylaw 263, which is UBID’s meeting procedure regulations.

Union Bay resident Janet Thomas said she thinks it’s distressing that UBID passed a bylaw that prohibits gallery members from recording meetings.

“Many people in the community of Union Bay can’t attend meetings because of their work schedules, family obligations, health or mobility issues,” she said. “Therefore, Union Bay citizens depend on having a recording of the public meetings to keep up with important issues.”

The proposal to amend UBID’s recording bylaw first arose last spring. At the May meeting, trustee Rick Bitten said he had received multiple emails from Union Bay landowners who were concerned they were being recorded by gallery members. He made a motion to suspend video and audio recording at UBID meetings until a solution could be found.

“I have no problem with audio or visual recording,” he said at the May board meeting. “It’s [just] not being done properly at this time.”

Bitten’s motion passed 3-2 after 20 minutes of discussion. The issue came up repeatedly throughout the ensuing board meetings.

Eventually, the board decided in July that UBID would film meetings itself and post the footage on its website so that it could be the copyright owners.

But the videos are also hosted on YouTube, meaning they can be shared under fair use regulations.

“The reason given by the board for the bylaw change was that they wanted to control their own copyright of the meeting videos,” said Thomas.

“This made absolutely no sense since the videos are still posted to YouTube — a site where you give up all copyright once you post any information.”

While it is not mandatory for public bodies in B.C. to record their public meetings, many do so. In the Comox Valley, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox, and the School District 71 board all post footage of their council meetings on their websites. Cumberland Village council has their meetings broadcast on Shaw TV.

Dermod Travis, the executive director of IntegrityBC – a non-profit government watchdog – says filming council meetings is good for government transparency on two levels.

“One, it ensures that anyone who has an interest in local affairs has the capacity to follow those affairs… at their own leisure,” he said. “The second, and in some ways this is more important, is that it creates a historical record.”

Travis said that UBID’s new bylaw that prohibits gallery members from filming isn’t necessarily an affront to transparency.

“In and of itself, I understand why any council would make such a ruling. And others have – the Vancouver school board, for instance, has a new policy that you can only tape their meetings from a certain vantage point,” he said.

“The best justification is wanting to have one official recording. You can’t go into the B.C. legislature and record the debates from the public gallery. You can’t do that in the House of Commons. There has to be one official record.”

UBID’s next board meeting takes place tonight (Feb. 15) at the Union Bay Community Hall.

Correction: a previous version of this article quoted Rod Bitten as a UBID trustee. The trustee is, in fact, Rick Bitten. Rod Bitten is Rick’s son.

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