Burbank, Calif., Officials Mull Council Digital Media Policy

The use of video during public comment portions of council meetings has ignited debate as to whether limitations on pre-recorded media constitutes an obstacle to free speech.

by Anthony Clark Carpio, Burbank Leader / December 3, 2018
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(TNS) - Burbank, Calif., is looking to develop a policy that would clarify how pre-recorded public comments can be used during meetings.

The Burbank City Council directed staff during a meeting on Tuesday to bring back a set of rules defining how the public can submit and use digital media, mainly videos, during the public-comment periods of any public meeting held in the council chambers.

City spokeswoman Simone McFarland gave a presentation covering what staff thought would be a policy that would set ground rules on pre-recorded comments.

However, most of the council members did not like the suggested rules, some of which involved having the person submitting a video fill out a form identifying who made the content and list the people who participated in it.

“I want to keep it simple, and I don’t want obstacles to free speech,” Vice Mayor Sharon Springer said.

Councilman Bob Frutos said he does not want to bar any speaker from using videos as their public comment, but added that there should be a policy in place to regulate those who bring in multiple videos to be shown during a single meeting.

“This is an impossible topic, and I’m not willing to vote on this tonight because I don’t really want to be so restrictive in allowing people the freedom to exercise their viewpoint,” he said. “Positive, negative or indifferent, I welcome it.”

Residents Mike Moynahan and Roy Wiegand have been known to show multiple videos from their YouTube channel called “The Mike and Roy Show” during meetings.

The videos typically feature Moynahan and Wiegand criticizing the city council on a variety of topics — such as the city budget, upcoming ballot measures or aircraft noise from Hollywood Burbank Airport.

However, the issue of censorship arose during a meeting earlier this year.

During a special meeting on May 10 when the city was interviewing candidates to fill a vacancy left behind by then Mayor Will Rogers, who died in April from liver cancer, two episodes of “The Mike and Roy Show” were shown. One episode was brought forward by Moynahan, while the other episode was asked to be shown by another resident.

However, before Wiegand was able to approach the podium for his public comment, then Vice Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy barred him from speaking or showing another video because he had already appeared in six minutes worth of comment.

During the meeting on Tuesday, the duo played two of their latest episodes, in which Moynahan and Wiegand voiced their displeasure with the proposed digital-media policy and how they think it’s a move against them.

“It’s very clear to many people in our community that this is singling out Roy and me for restrictions of speech and targeting the content of our videos,” Moynahan said in the video.

Councilman Tim Murphy said he was not a fan of “The Mike and Roy Show,” not for its content but because he prefers having the speaker at the podium in person.

He added that the city shouldn’t adopt any policy regulating how digital media is submitted and used during a meeting.

Resident LaVerne Thomas said she thinks the proposed policy is just a way for city officials to tighten “the reins [on] your constituents.”

She added, “I understand rules, but, come on, folks, we’re getting a little bit ridiculous,” she said.

©2018 the Burbank Leader (Glendale, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.