Councillors have raised concern that debates and grandstand political speeches in Birmingham broadcast live on the internet could be interrupted by loan shark adverts.
After Birmingham City Council Councillors decided to use a free website to broadcast council meetings, members are concerned also that their moment in the spotlight could finish with an advert for toilet cleaner or stain remover.
Council chiefs will now ask the Ustream website for its advertising policy before considering whether or not to pay for a more advanced or ad-free web broadcast facility.
The council started a trial broadcast two months ago and 1,300 people logged on to watch its July meeting, with little promotion.
Although they have no control over the choice of commercial, Ustream has assured the council that adverts would be of television channel quality, such as for cars, breakfast cereals and bleach.
Council press officer Deborah Harries joked that they had even seen a toilet cleaner advert pop up during the debate and suggested that councillors might not want to be associated with this.
But deputy leader Paul Tilsley (Lib Dem, Sheldon) was more concerned that a number of high interest loan companies advertise on daytime television.
“I would not be happy if these companies offering extortionate loans were advertising. I would not want people thinking Birmingham City Council endorsed them.”
He added that the broadcast had been a good thing and could “change the way we behave in meetings as we are not just playing to the political village”.
Labour deputy leader Ian Ward (Shard End) said: “We shouldn’t get carried away. 1,300 people is not a massive step forward for democracy. It is hardly Only Fools and Horses.”
But Conservative deputy leader Robert Alden (Erdington) replied: “It might only get a small number, but the point is that everyone in Birmingham can watch if they want to.”
However, Coun Alden thought it is ‘farcical’ that the only people unable to watch the meetings were council staff due to restrictions on internet access, but Coun Tilsley pointed out that on a Tuesday afternoon they should be working.
The media office has also been ordered to investigate the possibility of broadcasting more meetings, such as planning committee hearings.