Broadcasters Balk at Rules Proposed by School Board | Athletic Business

Broadcasters Balk at Rules Proposed by School Board

The board of education serving Augusta, Maine, has rejected a proposal to restrict media broadcasts of Cony High School sports and other district events after broadcasters indicated they would stop covering such events if the new rules were enacted.

As reported by the Kennebec Journalthe board voted unanimously to send the proposal, modeled on policies in Florida, back to the policy committee. Board members said it should be revised with input from broadcasters.

Broadcasters attending Wednesday’s board meeting said that they could not afford to pay proposed per-game fees to cover the games, and that the rules they’d have to follow are unnecessary and burdensome.

The proposed policy would charge any outlet wanting to broadcast Augusta school events on television, radio or the internet a fee of $50 for each regular-season game and $100 for each playoff game.

The rules included a requirement that announcers refrain from using profane or harsh language and from inappropriate criticism of officials, coaches, teams, players, schools or other entities, and it provided examples of inappropriate criticism: “This official clearly has no clue what he’s doing. Coach Smith should be fired. Joe Smith should not be starting.”

Criticism deemed appropriate includes, “We are unsure as to what drew the penalty. We will search for further clarification. Coach Smith made a mistake that now has his team down late in this game. Joe Smith is really struggling at the moment. We’ll see if he can bounce back.”

The policy would also have required outlets to submit the names of all sponsors and allow the school department to review all advertisers and advertisements to run during the broadcasts, and ban advertisements for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, firearms, bars and taverns, exotic dance clubs and political issues. Exceptions to those banned ads included ads for combination businesses, such as grocery stores and restaurants, which sell alcoholic beverages, tobacco or firearms as well as other items, as long as no part of an ad mentions banned products.

“As it stands if this policy is passed, we will not broadcast your games, and nobody else will, either,” Mix Maine Media's Mike Violette, who hosts a morning show and broadcasts high school sporting events for radio station Legacy 1160 WSKW., told board members. “I felt after I read your policy I might have to have an attorney come to the game and sit next to me. You literally discussed, in the policy, what we can and can’t say on the air.”

Cony principal Kim Silsby said the intention of the policy was to support and protect Augusta students. Violette said when his station wants to broadcast a game at any other high school in Maine, all he has to do is call the athletic director or appropriate school official to ask and he is always welcomed, and never charged a fee or required to fill out an application.

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