Live Webcasting of Community Council Meetings Encourages Citizen Participation in Local Governance in Armenia’s Lori Region

May 16, 2012

While most Armenians rely on television as their main source of news, a 2011 survey revealed that over 40% of them say they do not trust these TV channels to report unbiased information. As internet penetration grows in the country (it tripled from under 6% in 2009 to over 19% in 2010, largely due to the explosion of web-enabled mobile phones), more and more Armenians are turning online for independent news.

With the help of a small grant from Internews, Lori TV in the Lori region of northern Armenia was able to purchase portable equipment that allows the station to stream live video footage online and to mobile devices. Lori TV now broadcasts online footage in real time from important local events including municipal council meetings, enabling citizens to monitor the decision-making processes that affect life in their communities.

The broadcasts have increased public interest in municipal governance, as evidenced by viewer feedback through phone calls and at community meetings. A recent survey conducted by Lori TV found that 86% of the 800 respondents considered the live broadcasting of council sessions “very useful.” Council discussions on land distribution and privatization issues generated the greatest interest among viewers, many of whom are concerned about attempts by local officials to appropriate public parks and other common spaces for private use.

Lori TV is also mapping Internet connectivity at polling stations throughout the region in preparation for the parliamentary elections coming up in May 2012. The station plans to stream footage online to allow the public to act as unofficial “election observers,” monitoring activity at ballot boxes through their home computers or mobile phones. According to the latest data, live webcasts will be available from 25 of the 40 polling stations. The technology was successfully piloted at one polling station where the district election committee was holding its final session. The district is hotly contested and the broadcast attracted strong interest from the local public. 

Internews’ work with Lori TV is supported by USAID.