Committee Advances Bill to Ensure Media Access to High School Events
The House Commerce committee narrowly passed Senate Bill 119 Friday morning after listening to almost two hours of debate. Senate Bill 119 is proposed because some South Dakota school districts sign contracts with media outlets to broadcast high school events. The proposed legislation attempts to ensure free media access of those events. Proponents of the bill say the contracts restrict journalists and infringe on the First Amendment because it allows only some news agencies to broadcast the event. Dick Tieszen represents the Sioux Falls School District and opposes Senate Bill 119. He says the bill is about the profits live streaming brings.
“I suggest to you that the comment that the kids are being sold better fits the proponents of the bill. That’s who’s profiting off of this enterprise. They want the free live stream, they want to then sell it to their sponsors and run it again. It is they who profit. The for-profit media is here asking for free access so that they can expand their profits on something that is generated by the school district,” Tieszen says.
Tieszen says there is nothing that prevents reporters from covering the events. Other opponents say the contracts encourage competition and are similar to other things the school districts contract for like bus and lunch services. Many examples of schools limiting media access to certain events were given by supporters of the bill. One includes the Pierre School District having an exclusive contract with a radio station to live-broadcast its events. Another deals with the Sioux Falls School District charging media outlets to use the Sioux Falls’ school’s feed to live broadcast the event. David Bordewyk with the South Dakota Newspaper Association says exclusive contracts prohibit journalists from doing their job of keeping the public informed.
“The news media have expanded their tools they use to cover these games and school events because the audience has come to expect that kind of coverage. It’s pretty neat when grandma and grandpa in some other part of the country can tune in and watch a webcast of their grandchild participating in a sporting event back in South Dakota. Passage of this bill will help ensure that that robust, ever-expanding and changing news media tools can continue to be used to cover high school interscholastic events in South Dakota. If you pass this bill and sign it into law, this bill will ensure that public schools in South Dakota cannot prohibit the ability of news media to do their jobs as journalists,” Bordewyk says.
Other supporters of Senate Bill 119 say the legislation only applies to public high schools because they are taxpayer funded. Committee members approved the bill 7-6.