AUGUSTA — A proposed nine-page policy placing restrictions on media broadcasting Cony High School sports and other Augusta schools’ events was rejected by the Augusta Board of Education, after broadcasters said if the policy is enacted they would not cover any events at the city’s schools.

The proposal, modeled on policies local school officials found in Florida, was sent back to the Policy Committee, by a unanimous school board vote. Board members said the policy needs to be revised, this time with input from broadcasters.

Broadcasters, including a veteran radio announcer, at Wednesday’s board meeting said they could not afford to pay the per-game fees to cover the games and the proposed new rules they’d have to follow are both unnecessary and so burdensome they might have to hire a lawyer to do games with them.

Instead, Mike Violette of Mix Maine Media, who hosts a morning show and broadcasts high school sporting events for radio station Legacy 1160 WSKW, said if the policy passed as proposed they would no longer cover any Cony home games.

“As it stands if this policy is passed, we will not broadcast your (home) games, and nobody else will, either,” Violette told board members before their vote. “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.”

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

Its proposed 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.

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.”

And appropriate criticism: “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 be run during the broadcast, and ban any advertisements for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, firearms, bars and taverns, exotic dance clubs, or political issues.

Mike Violette, right, talks during a Dec. 6 live broadcast of the Cony at Lawrence boys basketball game on radio station WSKW Legacy 1160. During his morning radio show on Tuesday, Violette said that he opposed the proposed live broadcasting rules for Cony High games. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Exceptions to those banned advertisements 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 the ads mention those banned products.

While it would have banned advertisements about political issues, “political candidates may be acceptable as sponsors provided that no part of their political advertisements raise controversial political issues.”

Kim Silsby, principal of Cony, said the intention of the policy was to support and protect Augusta’s students by addressing a number of issues.

“These were the areas we were concerned about in protecting our students, in serving our students,” she said.

Superintendent James Anastasio said, at a Dec. 2 Policy Committee meeting at which the proposal was discussed before it was forwarded to the full board, that the proposal originated out of an issue that arose during homecoming week and plans around that week focused on a Cony football game. He said critics of that plan threatened to make an issue out of the focus on the boys’ football game while not also having similar attention focused on a girls’ sporting event.

Initially the policy included a requirement that any outlet broadcasting a game of one gender also broadcast a game of the opposite gender. However that part of the proposal was altered by the Policy Committee, to encourage, but not require, outlets to do so.

Jon Millett, athletic director, said at Wednesday’s board meeting the proposal “was reactive to the gender issue and kind of turned into a rat hole as we started going down that path,” and other provisions were added.

He said the fees were proposed to help the schools offset a loss in revenue from people watching games at home, by streaming on the web, instead of coming to and paying to attend games.

No other members of the public commented on the proposal Wednesday but the school department, via an online survey system created to gather community input on proposed policies, had 108 people take a survey or leave comments on the proposal. Donna Madore, assistant superintendent, said 76% of respondents or comments were not in favor of the policy.

Ben Lucas, a Cony graduate and athlete who won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s best senior high school football player in 2014, lives in Portland now but still follows Cony sports passionately, he said. Lucas added that he and other Cony alumni watch games streamed over the web by Munzing Media and other entities, and listen to games on the radio. Asked for his thoughts about the issue, by phone Thursday, he said it was upsetting when he learned of the new policy and that, due to it, broadcasters threatened to stop covering Cony’s home games.

“I’ve been following Cony sports since I was 5 years old and still passionately try to follow them, because I care about Cony and the Augusta community,” said Lucas, a political consultant in Portland. “Last Friday night, Cony’s first basketball game at Lawrence, I listened on the radio. And during football season a couple of games were streamed and I watched those as well. For Cony football versus Windham we got the stream going up on the TV in our living room, following along.”

He said school officials would be doing a disservice to students if the policy resulted in Cony games not being broadcast. He said friends and family of players, and Cony alumni spread across the country, watch webcasts of games.

He also said student-athletes enjoy having their games broadcast and, later in their lives, watch recordings of their old games and reminisce.

Representatives of Munzing Media, which streams many local high school sporting events, did not attend Wednesday’s school board meeting. However the business’ Facebook page stated it was “doubtful we will stream any Cony games in the future” if the policy is approved.

Silsby said school officials couldn’t find any schools in Maine with broadcast media policies but found a model policy used by high schools in the state of Florida.

She said the school department’s attorney reviewed the proposed policy to make sure they were doing things the way they should do them.

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.

Earlier this school year, while the policy was being formulated, school administrators banned outside outlets from broadcasting Cony sporting events.

Local access channel CTV-7, which has a contract to cover Augusta city and school events, has been broadcasting and webcasting Cony boys and girls basketball games in the meantime.

Multiple school board members said they hoped outside outlets, beyond CTV-7,  would be allowed to broadcast Cony games while the policy is reconsidered by the Policy Committee.

“I think what transpired here is everyone is acting with the best of intentions and trying to do what’s best for students,” said Amanda Olson, a board member. “If things are televised by CTV-7, I hope we’d give the same opportunity to radio stations or whoever else (wants to broadcast games) until the policy is passed.”

Asked to clarify whether that would happen, board Chairman Ed Hastings said school administrators heard board members express that desire to return to allowing outlets to broadcast events in the meantime, but said that determination is up to the administration.

Neither Anastasio, Millett or Silsby could be reached Thursday afternoon for clarification on whether outlets would be allowed to broadcast Cony games while the policy is being reconsidered.

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