City councillors in Birmingham last night voted to investigate running live television coverage of their debates on the big screen in Chamberlain Square, but even the most enthusiastic modernisers wondered whether anyone would bother to watch.

The proposal stemmed from a scrutiny committee which had been looking at strengthening the role of backbench councillors and ways of making meetings more relevant to ordinary people.

One idea was that council leader Mike Whitby should deliver an annual State of the City address, which would be transmitted to the Chamberlain Square screen. The West Midlands Chief Constable, Chief Fire Officer and director general of Centro might take part in similar ventures.

Scrutiny committee chairman Mick Wilkes said he hoped the screening would be a considerable success.

However, Coun Wilkes (Lib Dem Hall Green) added: "It may bomb. Some TV programmes do bomb but, at least, it would put us on our mettle to discuss items of interest to the citizens of Birmingham."

But the idea was dismissed by cabinet member Len Gregory, who doubted whether council debates would prove to be much of a crowd puller. Some councillors would play to the cameras, he warned.

Interviews with 22 councillors conducted by MORI uncovered widespread concern about political point-scoring and rudeness combined with an intimidating and uncivilised atmosphere in the council chamber.