Toronto’s public school trustees debated for more than three hours late into Wednesday night to decide whether to allow televisions displaying student programming and advertising in schools. In the end, no official decision was made.
Board trustees were to vote to expand an optional pilot project involving Onestop Media Group from four to 70 schools. After much arguing back and forth during a confusing and heated debate, the trustees decided to refer the issue to a committee, essentially killing the project in its current form.
A sticking point was the kind of advertising and the amount of advertising students would be exposed to. The digital project broadcasted school news and student generated content and received positive reviews from students, teachers and parents, but a provision set up to include up to two hours, or 30 per cent, of advertising per day upset several trustees.
Several trustees wanted to clarify what the non-commercial advertising actually is and were concerned that students would be exposed to commercials encouraging them to buy brand names. But TDSB guidelines strictly control and monitor sponsored advertising inside schools, and only approved ads, such as non-smoking, Milk Marketing Board content and information about post-secondary schools would be allowed.
“I think this is shameful when we are forced to prostitute our children just because we are an under-funded school system,” said trustee Sheila Gary-Meagher. “We are not here to sell ... we are here to educate.”
In exchange for granting Onestop Media the rights to advertise, the board gets $1,300 for each school that participates, as well as LCD screens and related equipment. But TDSB chair Chris Bolton said the pilot was not launched as a “money making venture” for the cash-strapped school board.
Student trustees Jenny Williams and Zane Schwartz also encouraged trustees to vote against the expansion of the program, saying while they liked the student generated content, they did not welcome the advertising.
The plan will likely be raised again at the next TDSB meeting with some amendments.