Government transparency is a good thing, a cause that we've often championed. So is fiscal restraint in government. A proposal to have OETA televise more legislative proceedings appears to benefit the first cause at the expense of the latter.
Senate Bill 429 would have OETA develop a network to televise legislative proceedings, agency meetings and appellate court arguments. The estimated cost for installation of cameras and other equipment would be about $600,000; operations would run as high as $1.8 million per year. That's far more than the cost involved when the Oklahoma House of Representatives installed cameras to stream floor debate and archive those recordings online.
The expense for the House video system technology installation was a one-time cost of $39,000 in fiscal year 2010. Annual operational costs are around $38,000. The Senate recently upgraded its streaming floor video using existing staff. Granted, the House video isn't broadcast quality and the system is limited to the House chamber (committee rooms are not set up for video archiving). But it still seems odd that the OETA plan would cost so much more.
Even if cost weren't an issue, it's hard to believe that OETA broadcasts would be more accessible to the average citizen than online archives. Most people can easily access a website at any time. The OETA proposal would likely require them to know in advance when to set their DVR to record, making this a less user-friendly system that apparently costs much more to operate.
Lawmakers are to be commended for working to increase transparency. But given the apparent high overhead involved, and the existence of lower-cost alternatives, providing greater bang for the buck, this may be an idea that should be shelved. That's no excuse for ending transparency initiatives, just a request to pursue them in a fiscally prudent way.