Mike Violette, right, does a live broadcast Dec. 6 of the Cony at Lawrence boys’ basketball game on radio station WSKW Legacy 1160. During his morning radio show Tuesday, Violette said he opposed the proposed live broadcasting rules for Cony High games.

A proposed policy that would regulate how members of the broadcast media cover Cony High School sports and other district events was rejected by the school board about six months ago due to a lack of input from the broadcasters who would be affected by the rules.

That policy still awaits their feedback.

The school board Wednesday night delayed action on a revised version of the proposal because it still lacks input from broadcast media, other than CTV-7, which records and broadcasts events for the city and local schools.

When the policy was first considered in December 2019, the school board unanimously rejected it and sent it back to the policy committee with instructions to get feedback from media.

At that time, broadcasters said they would stop covering Cony sports if the policy were enacted.

Board members voted 6-1 on Wednesday to table the proposal for a month to solicit input from the public and broadcasters. Ward 1’s Staci Fortunato, chairwoman of the policy committee, cast the lone dissenting vote,

“The original recommendation was to get input from those people in the business of broadcasting — would that be something we could make a call or two on?” said Pia Holmes, at-large board member. “Because those are the people who are going to have to deal with the policy.”

Fortunato said at the conclusion of the December 2019 meeting there was a discussion with Mike Violette of Mix Maine Media, who hosts a morning show and broadcasts high school sporting events for radio station WSKW Legacy 1160.

She said Violette was invited to the policy committee’s next meeting, but did not attend.

In December and again in an interview Thursday, Violette said the radio station where he works would no longer cover any Cony home games if the policy were to pass. He said he was never asked to provide input, other than at the initial December meeting at which he shared his concerns with the board.

“I was never asked,” Violette said, “and I don’t think anybody else was, either.”

He said the policy is unheard of in any other Maine schools, is unnecessary and a solution for a problem that does not exist. Rather than comply with the revised policy’s terms, Violette said he and other broadcasters will instead not broadcast at Cony. He said they would cover other schools’ teams or cover Cony games only when they are on the road.

“We’ve got all these other schools,” Violette said. “They’re delighted to have us and will do anything we ask to get a game on the air. They have other things to worry about and they know that. We don’t need the Orwellian police listening to every word you say, sending out examples of language you’re allowed to use. We don’t need to be regulated.

“I’m 60 years old. I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I know how to do it. We do it the right way. There isn’t a problem here. They’re creating one.”

Working high above center court, the Munzing Media team covers an Eastern Class A tournament game between Skowhegan and Bangor on Feb. 15, 2013, at the Augusta Civic Center.

Munzing Media replied to a pair of tweets Tuesday that linked to a Kennebec Journal story in advance of Wednesday night’s meeting.

To one, the Munzing Media Twitter account tweeted: “Munzing Media will not be streaming any Cony home games.We have MANY schools that welcome us and we will continue to offer streaming from those schools.”

To another, the account tweeted: “sent 5 screen shots of the 2018 game we covered from Cony. I’d say the fan split was 50/50 on the comments. They were all positive and mostly from folks with ties to the communities now living away.”

When the school board is to vote on a new or revised policy, the school system typically posts the proposed policy on its website a few weeks ahead of the vote, and use Survey Monkey to solicit public input.

But that did not happen in this case.

Assistant Superintendent Donna Madore said the revised broadcast media policy, along with two other policies, was not posted in the usual spot until the day before Wednesday’s board meeting and received no survey responses.

School board member Amanda Olson, also a member of the policy committee, said contacting members of the broadcast media directly for input may not provide a good representation of how others feel, but said the proposal should be tabled to allow time for people to express their views of the broadcast policy via the survey.

Fortunato said the board heard Violette’s concerns — and input received in December from online surveys — and addressed the concerns raised in revising the policy.

The revised policy significantly reduces the fees proposed to be charged to radio, television and internet broadcast entities to broadcast Cony sports, which was a concern expressed in the December meeting.

The proposal called for $50 for each regular season game and $100 for each playoff game. That proposal was adjusted to an annual $25 processing fee that would cover events for one school year.

But restrictions on broadcasters remain, including a requirement for “objective announcing” and a ban on inappropriate criticism of officials, coaches, teams, players, schools or other entities.

It provides 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 also would require broadcast 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.

It also bans any advertisements for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, firearms, bars or taverns, exotic dance clubs or political issues.

Exceptions to those bans include advertisements for combination businesses, such as grocery stores and restaurants, as long as none of the banned products is mentioned in ads.

Cony Principal Kim Silsby said the policy’s intention was to support and protect Augusta’s students by addressing a number of issues. Administrators based the policy on one from a Florida school, because none existed in Maine.

Chris Clarke, Ward 2 board member, suggested Augusta simply adopt the same policy used by the Maine Principals’ Association for the broadcast of high school tournament games, but Ed Hastings, chairman of the board, said Clarke’s proposal was “a little out of bounds.”

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

At a Dec. 2, 2019, meeting of the policy committee, Superintendent James Anastasio said the proposed policy originated from an issue that arose during homecoming week last year related to a Cony football game.

Anastasio said critics of that plan threatened to make an issue out of the focus on the boys’ football game, while similar attention was not given to a girls’ sporting event.

The policy initially included a requirement that any outlet broadcasting a game involving one gender also broadcast a game involving the other gender. That part of the proposal, however, was altered by the policy committee to encourage — but not require — such coverage.

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