June 24, 2023

By Linda Ahern, Tribune Publisher

The City of Lee’s Summit recently reduced its programming on the local government cable channel. However, the Mayor and City Council were the last to know.

At the end of Tuesday night’s Lee’s Summit City Council meeting, Councilmember Phyllis Edson (District 3) asked Director of Creative Services Cheryl Nash questions about changes regarding the city’s programming on the local government cable channel.

Nash stated that the city was still airing live meetings on the cable channel but was moving to streaming meetings and posting the city’s informational videos on the city’s YouTube channel and the city’s website.

Edson said that moving strictly to YouTube and internet sites leaves out people who do not have access to a computer or internet. Nash stated that the number of people using cable is dropping as evidenced by the decrease in revenues the city receives from the cable franchise tax.

The Tribune contacted Nash via e-mail for clarification. She replied, “Several months ago, we decreased the amount of 24/7 video content on the government channel after examining the cost of time and resources expended to program the channel as cable subscribers continue to decline. Note that City meetings are still broadcast live on the government channel and livestreamed on the City’s website and YouTube. We continually examine our communication platforms and how people consume media to ensure we are properly allocating resources and remain good stewards of our taxpayer dollars while engaging our citizens. In doing so, we looked at options to reach more citizens and expanded our content on YouTube which is the second most popular search engine, behind Google. We are currently testing and tweaking this platform to ensure we create the best viewing experience for our citizens. The next step will be promoting YouTube as an additional option to view live meetings and video content on demand. YouTube does not require a subscription or an account and there is no cost to the City to livestream or add video content. Livestreaming of meetings on the City’s website and the government channel remains available.”

Citizens can access city government information on several social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor, Instagram and YouTube, as well as the City’s website, City Portal newsletter, Council Debrief Newsletter, podcasts and weekly Flash Briefing, Nash added.

The Tribune reached out to Mayor Bill Baird via e-mail for comment on the changes. According to Mayor Bill Baird, these changes were made without the direction or consent of the mayor and city council.

“Mayor and Council were not informed or consulted regarding decreased programming on the cable Government Channel. We became aware of this at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. The City Manager Mark Dunning and I will discuss this decision as well as the statements made by our communications manager in the meeting because drastically reducing cable programing to a single City Council meeting is not something I support as mayor.”

He continued, “The last data presented to me regarding subscribers to cable providers did show a decline in subscribers. Technology has improved, and we have increased options regarding accessing city news and information. However, a significant number of citizens subscribe to cable and utilize it as their primary news source at all levels. Drastically decreasing the programming on the cable Government Channel is a disservice to our citizens especially those that do not have computers and are not subscribed to television services like YouTube TV, etc. Streaming city meetings from a phone can be a challenge especially given the many documents and visuals utilized and displayed in our meetings. The videotaping and streaming of our committees such as the Finance and Budget and other committees are critical in providing transparency to our citizens. Making these meetings as accessible as possible to our citizens is a priority. I will discuss the reimplementation of programing on the cable Government Channel with the City Manager and City Council.”

The Tribune staff will continue to monitor these changes and inform its readers.