Forbes Takes South Dakota to Task Over High School Coverage Bill
The unusual combination of South Dakota politics and sports have been in the national news lately. First, it was one of our legislators calling mixed martial arts the 'child porn of sports', now it's a new law banning South Dakota public high schools from selling exclusive media rights to their events.
Senate Bill 119 was brought about by Pierre High School attempting to sell exclusive broadcast rights to their events to Capital Radio Group for a reported $7,500 to $10,000 per year. That prompted other media outlets to cry 'foul' and the legislature took up the cause.
Now, Bob Cook, a contributor to Forbes.com, is weighing in, and he's not impressed by the actions of our elected officials:
As a word person, I generally applaud the invocation of the First Amendment to ensure that information is freely distributed, and that I don’t get thrown in jail for what I write. However, I have found one case testing my First Amendment absolutism....
...This bill is less about freedom of the press than it is the ability of the press to get things for free...
...As I hear the patriotic music telling me that the colonists fought and died for our rights to free web access to Pierre high school basketball, I also hear the sound of hypocrisy.
His point? The same people that are arguing against a school district's ability to make money selling these broadcast rights are the same people who want to use these games to make money by selling newspapers or advertising.
The key word at the heart of the issue is 'exclusive'. The bill does not outlaw selling rights to all-comers, just limiting it to one entity. But are those rights as valuable if anyone can purchase them?
Cook also wonders how the legislature can limit a public high school's ability to sell exclusive rights, while allowing state universities to sell exclusive rights to their events. Currently South Dakota and South Dakota State have exclusive deals with Learfield Sports.
Regardless of which side of the debate you're on, it is an important reminder that no matter how isolated we sometimes feel in the Upper Midwest, the rest of the country is watching.