Overview of Services
Hansard Broadcasting Services began in 1991 with live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of all House proceedings in the main Legislative Chamber. Three years later, the broadcast was enhanced by the introduction of closed-captioning services.
Televised proceedings of the British Columbia Legislature can be received virtually anywhere in the province. Hansard Broadcasting Services uplinks its signal to satellite, where it is made available free of charge to all cable TV companies in the province. Consult the Channel Guide and Schedule for local channels and broadcast times.
Hansard Broadcasting’s webcasting service was introduced in 2003, providing a new means of access to Internet users worldwide. Webcasting allows the live legislative debates to be viewed over the Internet while the House is in session. Starting 15 minutes after the conclusion of each sitting, the daily proceedings are available in a video archive of past webcasts. Links to all House sittings since October 2003 are available in this archive.
In 2005, Hansard Broadcasting Services’ mandate was expanded to include two important new initiatives. First, cameras were installed in the Douglas Fir Room — the Assembly's largest meeting room — allowing live webcasting and post-adjournment broadcasting of the debates of Section A of the Committee of Supply. The debates in “Committee A,” as this venue is colloquially referred to, are a detailed examination of the budget estimates of ministries of the Crown. This window on the estimates process has provided enhanced access to this important part of the legislative process, previously available only in the Hansard transcripts. Archives of these debates are also available on line.
The second important development in 2005 was the decision to provide audio webcasts of the public proceedings of special and select standing committees of the legislature. The live and archived webcasts of parliamentary committee audio are available on each committee's website, including the audio from all public meetings, whether they are held in Victoria or in any other community a committee chooses to travel to — from Vancouver to Vernon, Vanderhoof or beyond.
The year 2006 saw the introduction of another service: podcasting. Free podcasts of each day's Oral Question Period are available on the Assembly’s website. Subscribers automatically receive new files that can be played using any digital audio player or software-equipped computer.
In 2011, Hansard Broadcasting Services launched a new service for users of mobile devices — our Mobilecast service. Mobilecast streams live and on-demand video to BlackBerrys, iPhones and other streaming-enabled mobile devices.
How the Broadcast is Produced
In the House, six cameras on robotic mounts are housed in specially designed enclosures, two on either side of the Chamber and two at the north end, facing the Speaker’s chair. A five-camera system that mirrors the camera arrangement in the Chamber is in place in the Douglas Fir Committee Room.
To ensure accuracy and cost-effectiveness, these systems are designed to be as fully automated as possible. The robotic cameras are integrated with on-site microphone-selection systems. In the Chamber, for example, a console operator sits at a pen-operated computer tablet in a booth located above the Chamber in the public gallery and selects the microphones of individual Members as they are recognized by the Chair. Each selection automatically triggers the audio system to turn on that Member's microphone, adjusts the volume for the Member’s voice and signals a controlling computer to activate robotic camera controls to turn two cameras to preset shot positions on the Member.
Framing and focusing are stored for automatic recall by the robotic control system. If required, a video technician manually makes final adjustments to the shot and then uses a video switcher to send the camera shot live to air.
Once the camera shot is on air, the controlling computer will recall the name, party label and riding (or cabinet portfolio) of the selected Member. At this stage, technicians may display that information, activate pre-programmed business or other text, or compose new text as required to reflect what is happening during the debate.
Technicians constantly monitor the video and audio systems to ensure that quality is maintained and the signal stays within broadcast specifications.
The debates are recorded digitally in different formats. A broadcast-quality format is used for short-term storage and rebroadcasting, a medium quality format is used for long term archiving, and a streaming-quality format is used for the Internet archive. Video copies are made for Members, Officers of the House and the press on request, with DVD and electronic video files being the most common formats requested.