Linux Streaming Wins Respect in Europe

Sometimes in the public sector, reaching almost everyone isn’t enough. The European Commission (EC) found this out the hard way in late 2006 when it launched a streaming service that supported Windows and Macintosh users but not Linux users. To make matters worse, when citizens across Europe complained, the EC claimed it was illegal to support Linux streaming.

After many thousands of additional citizens across the EC complained that they were being excluded from the streaming service, which offers many important videos of the EU's debates and briefings, the EC modified its online Frequently Asked Questions and blamed it on a translation mistake.

"It was originally written in French," said an EC spokesman when approached by Ziff Davis UK, "and the French version has no such statement. So it is a mistake."

The statement was removed from the document on January 8, 2007, but the EC continued to allow only Windows and Mac OS users to view the videos.

This week, however, the EC announced that a council in the UK, the Waverley Borough Council in Surrey, England, had been awarded £40,000 to continue its efforts to stream to citizens using any Mac, Linux or Windows machine. The Commission—perhaps also as a gesture of goodwill—has also awarded Waverley's project, called eParticipate, an award called eTen. This award makes the project the top e-government project of the year in Europe, besting 700 other e-government projects run across the European Union.

The Waverley council streams two key council meetings a week to its constituents, as well as special events. Using both a Windows and an open-source program to access the service allows Linux users on distributions such as Ubuntu Linux to access the streams.

According to reports, the council is supplying related documents to users during the webcasts, such as PowerPoint slides, PDFs, and planning applications. Indexing is also used, so that whenever a new person speaks, users viewing archived material can jump straight to the pertinent point in the webcast.

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