Augusta school board approves controversial audiovisual media policy



Mike Violette, right, broadcasts the Cony at Lawrence boys’ basketball game live on December 6, 2019 on WSKW Legacy 1160 radio station. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal dossier Buy this photo

AUGUSTA – Home sporting events in Cony will likely take place without the presence of TV or radio broadcasters, as Augusta’s school board approved a controversial broadcast media policy on Wednesday night.

School officials, including Cony’s principal Kim Silsby, who was a key advocate for the policy she helped draft, said it aimed to protect students, especially at a era of increasing use of social media.

As a result of the initial criticism, the policy was changed and the revised policy significantly reduced the proposed fees for radio, television and internet entities to broadcast Cony‘s sports, which was a concern expressed during from the December 2019 meeting. It initially provided $ 50 for each regular season game and $ 100 for each playoff game. This proposal was adjusted to an annual processing fee of $ 25 that would cover events in a school year.

But restrictions on broadcasters remain, including a requirement for “objective reporting” and a ban on inappropriate criticism from officials, coaches, teams, players, schools or other entities. In addition, the policy places restrictions on what advertisements may be served and how sponsors may be treated during broadcasts.

Board members approved the final reading of the new policy proposal, considered the first of its kind in Maine, by a 5-1 vote. But the vote came after a clash between two board members, both of whom sit on the policy committee that submitted the policy to the board for approval.

Ward 4 board member Kati McCormick voted against first reading of the policy last month. She said on Wednesday that she had done so because the committee had not asked stakeholders for their input. McCormick also said that “sometimes it seems that whether or not a committee solicits stakeholders for feedback is based on the policy committee chair’s interest in a policy.”

She cited, as an example, last year’s Policy Committee meetings which she said were moved to accommodate stakeholder interest in an equally controversial proposal to add more days. religious holidays on the school calendar. This policy was ultimately rejected by the school board.

Staci Fortunato, Ward 1 board member and policy committee chair, replied to McCormick, “I don’t appreciate being called, it was inappropriate.

“You are also part of this committee. We worked to reach out, you were with me when we invited a reporter to a committee meeting in January, and he didn’t come, ”Fortunato added. “If you thought we should have done more, you could have reached out. This has not been done.

Board chairman Edward Hastings tried to cut Fortunato off, but she went on to say, “If she can point a finger at me, I can give my word too.”

Hastings demanded that board members keep the meeting in order, and members voted 5-1 in favor of the policy and other policies related to its implementation.

Jennifer Dumond, extraordinary board member, read a prepared statement and said the broadcast media policy sets clear conditions and expectations for broadcasters covering Augusta schools’ sporting events “so that it There is no misunderstanding and therefore the educational dignity and property of (Augusta School District) is maintained.

Katy Grondin, the new deputy superintendent, said online polls on the policy indicated that 64% of respondents thought the policy was positive. These respondents included 11 parents and citizens. Respondents to previous surveys on the policy included school staff and administrators.

Grondin said some poll respondents who commented said the policy was good for students, while others felt it was unfair and expressed concern that Cony’s sporting events would not be broadcast in because of politics.

Ward 2 board member Chris Clarke the only vote against the policy said if Augusta adopted a policy that was not in place at any other school in Maine it would take longer to consult with presenters to discuss what would work well.

“I really think if we’re going to set trends, we should really do our homework and do it right,” he said. “I just don’t think we’re in the right place right now to put this policy in place.”

Central Maine broadcasters Mike Violette and Rob Munzing said Thursday they don’t plan to cover any Cony’s home games, which they have maintained since the policy was first put in place.

Board members approved the first reading, by two votes required, of the new policy in June, by a 4: 2 split. Previously, the policy had been rejected twice by the school board and returned to the committee that wrote it, because what the members said at the time was a lack of input from broadcasters.

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