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THEY are the unlikeliest reality television stars but the upstanding men and women of Reading council are to find themselves darlings of the small screen.

Meetings will be broadcast online and there are hopes that the 46 honourable members will behave better once the people who elect them can keep tabs on the internet.

The Chronicle has called for meetings to be 'webcast' and archived online to boost accountability and end farcical grandstanding and on Tuesday night councillors unanimously voted to press ahead with the idea.

Our investigation last year found other councils which have done it saw improved councillor behaviour and more people at meetings because they know what to expect.

Tory Cllr Jamie Chowdhary said: "Let's embrace webcasting and let them see exactly how things function."

The move came when his idea to cut IT costs by using more open-source, non-corporate software was amended after talks with the Lib Dems to embrace webcasting and make better use of the council's website.

Lib Dem Cllr Warren Swaine did the research and got backing for his amendment at the full council meeting.

He said the actual costs were small but added: "The cost in terms of how people perceive democracy in this town would be immense. All you have to do is look what happens after meetings on blogs and in the newspapers to know that people do want to hear what's being said."

Colleague Richard Willis joked that he thought viewing figures might "be lower than the test card" but councils which let meetings be archived and viewed later found surprising numbers of people keen to do so.

Labour leader of the council, Jo Lovelock, backed the plans and said opening up the council to the people was a fine idea.

Cllr Swaine said later: "With the closure of the last of the three Bs, this maybe will be seen as the moment that Reading Borough Council embraced the technologies for which the town is now rightly renowned."

Neighbouring South Oxfordshire and Basingstoke and Deane councils have had great success putting meetings online and bigger councils have had thousands of viewers for single meetings.

Detailed plans will now be prepared by officers with approval hoped for later this year.

To see how webcasting works in South Oxfordshire, visit www.southoxon.public-i.tv

For more on the Chronicle's investigation into webcasting, visit:

www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/roundup/articles/2009/03/26/36594