That's the number of hits recorded on a new City Council website created in a bid to make meetings accessible to anyone with a broadband connection.
It might sound like a pathetically small number, compared to (say) Britain's Got Talent or Strictly; but putting it another way that's about a hundred more punters than could pack in to see a sellout show at the City Varieties, and it's fair to say any act filling that venue would normally be hailed a success. Not that I'd ever draw a comparison between a Council meeting and a pantomime. Perish the thought.
Even if we discount half yesterday's hits as being from people associated with the project - techies, PR types, friends and relatives - and knock off another couple of hundred for repeat visitors we're still left with more viewers than there are seats in the public galleries at the Civic Hall. When I turned up with two dozen journalism trainees to observe a meeting once it caused a bit of a stir among the elected members. They'd never had such a big audience.
Nearly 600 hits for an experimental webcast of a City Council meeting should be regarded as a success. Making democracy visible is important.
Even though today's Councillors enjoy only a fraction of the municipal power wielded by their predecessors, who commissioned the fabulous Civic Hall in the last great depression as a Portland stone example of Leeds workers' building skills, they still control budgets of billions and carry prime responsibility for educating the city's children, caring for the vulnerable, housing the homeless and burying the dead - as well as dealing with more contentious issues like parking charges and dog mess on footpaths.
Back in the day when I reported Bradford in the 1980s such issues were scrutinised regularly by local radio, and in some depth by the Telegraph and Argus newspaper which employed its own formidable City Hall correspondent.
Today it's rare to see a journalist at any local council meeting. Instead 'communication teams' employed by councils feed copy-ready news releases to news organisations, and often deliver complete full colour newspapers through the letterboxes of council taxpayers. They'd never lie, but it's probably fair to say such comms teams tend towards a sunny interpretation of how well public services are being delivered.
Now I reject the view advocated by some career academics that news organisations swallow such spoon-fed stories uncritically. Of course journalists will rewrite notices and seek out alternative viewpoints. But crucially, without observing the debates which shaped policy, much of the context in which decisions are made is lost.
Local government enthusiasts such as the redoubtable Leeds Citizen fill in some of the missing background (and unearth some cracking stories in the process) but the truth is a lot of big decisions are made not behind closed doors, but in front of empty benches.
Decisions which involve spending huge amounts of public money. Decisions which may change the lives of Leeds residents forever. Decisions which are then publicised, selectively, by an in-house comms team. That process leaves this old hack feeling uneasy.
Lets hope the webcasting of a full Council meeting, which if not a pantomime is certainly the most theatrical of local goverment debates, is just the start of a process which makes decision making transparent to all who want to observe it. The real nitty-gritty of negotiation and compromise happens in planning meetings; accountability is examined in Scrutiny Committees. These should also be on webcam.
More importantly the audio and video should be made available to radio and TV broadcasters, online news providers and dedicated bloggers who can redistribute it to wider audiences, subject to similar safeguards to those which apply to the coverage of Parliament.
Doing so can only increase coverage of council decision making. As a radio editor I can run a clip of the Council leader and an opposition spokesperson even if I can't spare a reporter to attend a lengthy meeting in person; and crucially I choose what clip to run.
From my conversations with the new Made in Leeds TV channel due to go on air in November I'm confident they would want to cover city issues in more depth than is possible on current Yorkshire-wide news and politics programmes on BBC and ITV.
There will be those who question the cost of webcasting in times of 'austerity'. It's a consideration. I don't know the figures but I'm sure it's cheaper than any full-colour Council-published 'newspaper'.
Above all, given the difficult decisions which must be made as Leeds struggles to make the cuts in expenditure required in the current economic climate, it's important to air the arguments in public. Just seeing the webcam winking in the corner should be enough to remind Members their words and deeds are being observed by those they represent.
That can only be a good thing.
Good stuff. Costs are here theleedscitizen.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/liv… peanuts! Bring on exec, planning and scrutiny!
— leeds citizen (@leedscitizen) May 9, 2013
@leedsjourno Thks Richard, have just scanned it will read properly in a sec, just thought you may be interested 76 have viewed in archive!
— sarah gusterson (@SarahGusterson) May 9, 2013
Really interesting take on yesterday's live webcast from @leedsjourno - esp re: importance of visible debate rhorsman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/lettin…
— Keith Wakefield (@CllrKWakefield) May 9, 2013
@leedsjourno @culturevultures @leedscc I will raise this at Members Management Cttee mentioning Leeds TV. We discuss the webcast there!
— Alex Sobel (@alexsobel) May 10, 2013