How many people watch Wilton’s town meetings?
During the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Jan. 11 meeting, commissioner Franklin Wong introduced the prospect of televising the commission's meetings after being asked by “a number of people … why Planning and Zoning does not have a video broadcast,” he said.
Wilton's Government Access channel, Cablevision Channel 79, broadcasts tape-delay presentations of the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance meetings, as well as Annual Town Meetings and selected public meetings and hearings like those held by the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee.
The town also posts recordings of meetings and other events at wiltonct.org/tv, and Cablevision Channel 79’s on-the-air partner, The Wilton Education Channel, broadcasts Board of Education meetings on Cablevision Channel 78.
But how many people actually watch these meetings?
Viewership data — or lack thereof
Phil Sharlach, one of Wilton's two Area 9 Cablevision Council (A9CC) appointed representatives, said he, fellow representative Gary Battaglia, and others have proposed that question “many times.”
However, the answer remains unknown, he said, since Cablevision does not track viewership of public access channels, and the only way for the town to know how many people watch the televised meetings is by the viewers notifying the town themselves.
Carole Young-Kleinfeld, Wilton’s Democrat Registrar of Voters and former representative, said that when she served on the council a few years ago, “anecdotes from people mentioning it in the supermarkets or at other community meetings” were the only viewership data available.
“Although Cablevision/Optimum offers no information on how many people watch Channel 79,” said Wilton IT Director John Savarese, online viewership data is available.
According to Savarese, the number of views for the past three meetings of each board and committee’s online programs are as follows:
- Board of Selectmen: 27, 38, 24.
- Board of Finance: 13, 7, 7.
- Miller-Driscoll Building Committee: 13, 15, 16.
Although there is no viewership data for Channel 78 either, said Wilton Public Schools Technology Director Mathew Hepfer, viewership data for the school district’s new live-stream channel is available.
Since the live stream of Board of Education meetings launched last month, the channel has received 188 views, Hepfer told The Bulletin on Jan. 21.
The Board of Education live stream can be accessed by visiting www.wilton.k12.ct.us, clicking “Board of Education’ at the top of the page, then clicking ‘Live View of the Board of Education Meetings’ under the Contents section on the right-hand side.
Sharlach said A9CC's “most significant role” is to “assist our community members by exchanges of ideas and public television operating experiences, and most importantly, to distribute grants to our community members to cover their on-air costs for equipment and videographer expenses.”
Sharlach said funding comes through as a tax on each cable subscriber’s bill.
“We distribute over $200,000 annually,” he said. “It is the town's responsibility to request government and educational funding grants. Not all towns do.”
For almost a decade, Wilton had not requested grants for either its government or education stations, said Sharlach, but “in the last two months, the town has requested and received almost $40,000 in grants.”