Wow, I feel honored! During the “public” comment section tonight, the Region One superintendent got up and spoke to rebut comments that I made about pay in the area, the comments were not even addressed to her, they were made to the board! The Region One Chair, Phil Hart allowed it, but, I am not really sure if it was appropriate! The superintendent has her own time to give a report..she is NOT part of “public” comment…she is NOT the “public”, she is the superintendent! Oh well…they just don’t get it…tearing up three-year contracts every year and writing new ones is just plain WRONG. Period.
FCC sides with WHDD in complaint from Region 1 Schools administrator
Monday, April 2, 2012
By REGISTER CITIZEN STAFF
The Federal Communications Commission on March 30 sided with Sharon-based WHDD radio and its co-founder, Marshall Miles, in a complaint filed by Region 1 Schools Assistant Superintendent Diane Goncalves.
“This was an attempt by the Region 1 administration to bully,” Miles said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “They might be able to get away with it in their own school system, but they’re not going to bully us.”
In the complaint, filed on December 5, 2011, Goncalves contended that on multiple occasions Miles broadcast on-air endorsements of specific candidates running for public office and also criticized specific members of the Region 1 Board of Education. She contended that such action were a violation of the Communications Act of 1934, and specifically Section 399 of that act. That section specifically states, “No non-commercial educational broadcasting station may support or oppose any candidate for public office.”
On January 13, Miles filed opposition to the complaint by Goncalves arguing that the specific section cited in Goncalves complaint addresses endorsements or opposition by the station itself. Miles counter-argued that his on-air endorsements stated at the beginning and at the end that the endorsements were his personal opinion and did not reflect that of the management, underwriters, staff or WHDD. He cited legal precedent to back his argument.
Gonclaves responded to Miles’ opposition with confirmation that he did use a disclaimer of personal opinion to accompany the endorsements, but that they came only at the end. Additionally, she said on the station’s most recent ownership report that the stations officers are Miles and two appointees. She argued that Miles involvement in the station equated to him being a spokesman for the station as an entity.
The FCC letter from Mark L. Berlin, Policy Division of the Media Bureau, clearly sided with Miles on the issue of criticism of school board members. The letter states, “At the outset, Ms. Goncalves’ contention the station criticized various members of the Region 1 Board of Education on the air is not prohibited by any law or policy.”
The letter goes on to cite a 1973 opinion on Section 399, stating, “…we concluded that it would be an unnecessarily broad construction of Section 399 to prevent all personal expression of views on public issues by employees of a noncommercial educational broadcast station.”
On the issue of endorsements, the letter concluded, “We also believe that your endorsement of certain school board candidates on the air was permissible – as long as you clearly indicated that it was your personal opinion and not that of the station. Section 399 applies only to formal station support or opposition of a candidate for public office, and you should take care in the future that your personal views over the air continue to be clearly labeled as such.”
Miles said the word ‘continue’ in that last sentence adds validity to what he has been doing all along. “The FCC, with that one word, validated what we’ve been doing and said we’re following the rules,” he said.
He added that the decision came as no surprise, but it came at a cost.
“This was a free speech issue,” Miles said. “I’m not surprised at the decision because the FCC’s rules clearly state that employees or hosts at independent, not-for-profit stations can make personal opinion statements. But the ruling came at a cost to us. We had to hire a lawyer to fight this.”
FCC rules were violated when Miles spoke out against certain Region One school board members, and endorsed candidates in the school board elections. And the FCC went on to clearly state that the practice of personal endorsements can continue by continuing to state and label the opinion as Miles own.
The administration of Region One may be able to bully and muzzle opposition in the school system, but not out in the real world where free speech, and free thinking is not restricted and banned, but cherished.
Attached please find the FCC decision.
From this mornings Republican-American….
Rancor over support for budget carries into planning of agenda
A lengthy discussion ensued at last week’s special meeting of the Region 1 Board of Education on the upcoming budget process.
Chairman Philip Hart of Cornwall, anxious to see the budget pass in the six member towns of
Canaan, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent, Salisbury and Sharon, polled the members on how to seek support. His idea for a letter signed by all six members was nixed when two of them, Gale Courey Toensing of Falls Village and Marilyn Yerks of Sharon, said they couldn’t put their names on such a piece of correspondence. Hart then cautioned members that they may express their opinions on the plan, but when talking to constituents cannot tell them how to vote, looking directly at Toensing.
She was outspoken about the rights of board members who don’t have to follow lock step with the majority when their views differ, and was quick to respond to Hart’s admonition, saying, “I won’t do what you did last month.” When Toensing asked to add an item to the agenda at that meeting about board procedures and goals, Hart told his fellow members, “I encourage you not to vote for this.”