Public school districts shouldn’t grant exclusive broadcast rights to some media outlets, the state Senate decided Tuesday.
Senators voted 27-8 to approve legislation that would guarantee freedom of media coverage of high school activities.
The South Dakota Newspaper Association strongly advocates the passage of Senate Bill 119, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
It is an attempt to halt current practices where school districts have sold exclusive rights and prohibited others from broadcasting events in their entirety on the radio, TV or Internet.
The bill says no school board or school district may interfere with the right of news media to attend and engage in journalism concerning any interscholastic high school activity or event.
The board or district would be allowed to set rules “governing reasonable accommodations” for the coverage.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, said it would ensure the media have the freedom to do their jobs.
But Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, drew a line between First Amendment reporting by a news outlet and a commercial broadcast of someone else’s event.
Tieszen said there wasn’t any difference between private dollars sponsoring a Black Hills Stock Show event and tax dollars supporting a public school event.
“Why do you think you pay $5 at the door to attend the basketball game? It’s to help support the event,” Tieszen said.
That didn’t convince Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, who said there is a difference between a public event and a private event.
“It’s a First Amendment right,” he said.
Johnston said that on Jan. 22 a Watertown radio business was notified it couldn’t live-stream a game in Sioux Falls on KWAT’s Internet site.
“Folks, that’s wrong,” he said.
Casting no votes were Democrats Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge and Chuck Welke of Warner and Republicans Mark Kirkeby of Rapid City, Jeff Monroe of Pierre, Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, Mike Vehle of Mitchell, Jim White of Huron and Tieszen.
The bill isn’t intended to affect the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s agreement with South Dakota Public Broadcasting for state-level events.
The bill’s lead sponsor in the House is Democratic minority leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton.