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OPINION: Facebook Live Streaming Council Meetings

People should be able to live stream (shoot video and run it live from that location) at public meetings. Not everyone can attend and the information should be shared.

During the September 5 city council, the City Manager (CM), I believe, right after the Pledge of Allegiance and with everyone seated, informed the audience that there were 8 reserved seats in the back for people who want to live stream the meeting. He obviously saw that someone was already live streaming on the second row. The person obviously heard him, but did not budge and stayed on their seat and kept live streaming on Facebook. I think everyone on the room was expecting for that person to move after the CM made his request, but the person didn't. The person ignored the CM and kept streaming. The city council members who obviously also heard that request, did not say anything and just started the meeting because the person was obviously not going to move. 

When the CM made the request for the live streamer to move to the back, he never mentioned the reason why, or if he did it was very vague. The person who was live streaming was at the very end of the second row, quiet and was not blocking anybody's view, so I didn't really understand the necessity to ask the person to move. The next thing the CM said was there should be no live streaming during breaks because it was not part of the meeting. I'm like, hmm, that is very odd because that made me think that that would also include live streams before the meeting started. The CM did know the person (he asked to move) was live streaming before the meeting started because he passed that person several times handing papers to the city clerk.

Before I wrote this opinion, I looked up for any Hollister council meeting rules about live streaming but found none. I was thinking that if the CM, a council member, the chief of police or the city clerk was going to say something confidential, they would go to their quarters away from public view. I believe that when you are in public view, then that is fair game.

I personally wouldn't have the battery life to live stream the whole meeting, nor the arm strength to hold up my phone for the entire duration, but do want to be able to live stream, regardless of where I sat, when the discussion becomes of significant interest to me, that compels me to share the information to everyone else who I believe would be interested in hearing the discussion.

I will attend the next council meeting. I hope that the CM establishes his house rules for the audience so that nobody unnecessarily gets shamed (the live streamer) or embarrassed (the CM for being ignored), for just wanting to share relevant information to people who couldn't be at the meeting in person.  

Author's Note: I am fully aware I don't write well so to the grammar police, I only want to express my opinion in the way I know best. I don't need trolls either. So write your own opinion piece about grammar and writing please. 




Kathy, you are correct as far as I am concerned. Live streaming is just a follow on technology to previous forms of reporting. I cannot imagine what grounds anyone would have to make a Live Streamer change seats, unless he/she were blocking the view of another audience member. It's not like the City Council has a lot of disguised Confidential Informants testifying before them. The only identity they have to protect is their own. The Chief of Police will not arrest bums for breaking the trespass laws so why would he arrest a Live Streamer for practicing his/her 1st Amendment rights in a public forum, breaks included? What is the City Manager going to do? Arm wrestle you to the back of the hall? I don't think so. Even our City Manager can process those implications. I can only hope that the live streaming coverage is better than CMAP results in the past.

--William McCarey

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

I really like FB live. I have no idea how to access the videos on CMAP. Also the CMAP taken live streams only show a fixed angle during the whole meeting whereas FB live allows you to pan out and see everything. Another thing that I like about FB live is there is a message board that people watching can comment on as it happens live. If the CM could see the comments on the thread when he made that request, he would realize how petty he was. The live streamer commented, "The CM just asked me to move to the back of the bus."

I understand that when I attend meetings like these, I know I may be "included" in the live stream. It's not a big deal to me. I hope politicians understand the necessity for FB live streams as a way and a right for people to access public information in a public meeting in public property at any time, which means before, during, and after.

Good thing no one ever makes petty comments on Facebook. Lol

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

I think that the standards are higher for the CM as it was a council meeting and he was representing the council when he said it. On FB you can only speak for yourself.

What if a speaker, not a Council member, does not want to be live streamed on Facebook.  How does that work? I do not "do" Facebook and have absolutely no interest in being on it. Do I have any rights to not be live streamed on Facebook?  Once in a while I give my husband permission to post a photo of me for his relatives but he always asks first. What are the rules for posting on Facebook?

Carol, as a photographer, I know that anyone in public can be photographed without permission and without signing any release. If you speak at a public meeting, I can photograph you and post it anywhere I choose. I cannot use it in a derogatory manner or defame the subject, but I can publish it as is without any recourse by the subject. I would imagine recording a voice is the same principle: if you are in public, everything you say may be published and reproduced without the subject's permission, including Facebook.

Facebook must be hanging on by its fingernails. Its primary audience 13-25 year olds have abandoned it. It is now dominated by 50-70 year olds, corporations, and politicians. Even the homemakers have moved along to Pinterest. My money says that it will follow Myspace into inglorious irrelevance within five to ten years.

-William McCarey

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

If you've ever watched a CMAP live stream, it has always shown the speaker's face. Part of the fact that as a speaker you introduce yourself so people know who you are.

If you attend a public meeting, you are subject to CMAP TV video and local press coverage. I heard a rumor about a situation at a previous city council meeting where one person was live-streaming during a break, and an audience member who was unaware of the live-stream made a profane critique of one of the council members.

So it appears the CM was trying to do some housekeeping to avoid a similar situation. I doubt there are any laws or rules that govern such policy, and we all know that 'freedom of speech' arguments will be entertained regarding enforcement of such restrictions. But in today's world, if you're out in public you can be recorded, especially at a public meeting.

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

Nobody really knows what the CM's motive was. It could be for his benefit, the other council member's benefit, or for everybody's benefit. The City of Hollister posted on its Facebook page and on it's website that the CM was going to answer questions on "Growth Management or anything else City of Hollister related" at City Hall, two weeks before Saturday, September 9. September 9 came and apparently everybody forgot about it. A couple went and one of them posted on a local Hollister group page that it was just the 2 of them and asked people to head over and participate. Four people commented on that post, including myself, and requested it be live streamed on FB because everybody already had their day planned, but want to watch it at the comfort of wherever they were, or watch it when they got home.  I waited for a live stream. Nothing. This makes me think the CM is not a fan of FB live.

Those portions of the city council meeting when the members and staff are doing their official duties or when the people speak from the dais (it is, after all, a form of public input and part of the minutes) are certainly subject to being recorded both video and audio.  Streaming is really just instantly broadcasting what was captured by the same type of device.

That being said, merely entering the council chambers does not mean you give up all your privacy rights.  The fact that you are visually in attendance is, in my opinion, public information, but what you may say to the person sitting next to you is a private conversation.

Now, if you say something loud enough to be picked up be the official mics that's your problem, but if someone records you with a private mic or zooms the video to the point where someone can read your lips, that's an invasion of privacy.

The key legal question is - is there a reasonable expectation of privacy in that kind of conversation in the audience and during official "breaks" in the public process?  I believe the answer is yes; therefore we should respect that privacy.

I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV.

Marty Richman

Marty, this has been ruled on a thousand times by every level of court. If you are in public, you cannot have any expectation of privacy. On the street, in a public building, in a car on a highway, you are considered to be acting in public. That is why the famous trash can ruling is in place. Your trash on a public street is open to inspection by anyone.(That is why my gun catalogs go on top of the blue waste.)  You have forfeited your rights of privacy the moment you set the can on a public curb. When you step off your property or drive out of your garage, you are cannon fodder for the paparazzi. With your fame, I am sure you have experienced this. No whispering behind the mayor's back!

--William McCarey

oops I left this attachment off:

Bill, thanks fot rhe link, I think it covers the subject pretty well so I know you won't mind me posting part of it with my own emphasis -

"Expectation of Privacy in Public

A person's reasonable expectation of privacy can get a little trickier outside the home. Although someone may not have a right to seclusion when in the public view, the law can still protect people from being portrayed in a way that could be considered humiliating or from having their private details broadcast. Persons involved in accidents, or bystanders to accidents, would probably not be able to sue a newspaper or television station just for showing images of their likeness if the event is newsworthy or if it's in the public interest to know about it."

The problem is that when you're streaming there is no editor available to filter the information.  So you're sitting in the council chamber next to your friend who asks, quietly, "How you doing with your cancer treatment?" And you answer, quietly, "Not bad, but the chemo give me terrible problems with cramps."

If a streamer is trying to pick up comments from a county politician sitting behind you and zooms to the degree that your lips can be read - or your comments heard - I think the streamer has a problem.  That's my opinion, because you have SOME expectation of privacy if you're talking quietly even in a public place.  "Abandoning" your trash is a different situation entirely as is yelling across the room or sitting in the back of a police car.

OBTW, gun catalogs are never trash - they are valuable publications that help you exercise your Second Amendment rights.

Marty Richman

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