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Debate reignites on video screens in TDSB schools Add to ...

A deal to have TV advertising in the hallways of Toronto’s public high schools is again making its way back for discussion at the Toronto District School Board.

Last month, board trustees voted down the expansion of an optional pilot project involving Onestop Media Group from four to 70 schools.

But the financial committee of the TDSB decided Wednesday evening to send a new proposal back to the board. This new motion would allow the decision to expand to be made at the local school level, rather than at the board level.

The proposal will be considered by staff if the TDSB passes the motion on April 13.

“This [idea]keeps on coming back up again and again, because the TDSB doesn’t seem to be clear on the advertising policy,” said trustee Cathy Dandy. “I think we keep dancing around the issue.”

TDSB’s advertising policy was established in 2002. Nine years later, Ms. Dandy said the review is long overdue. “If we had clear guidelines on this, we could move forward in a decisive manner.”

Trustee Chris Glover is confident that students can create self-generated news content that could replace the Onestop project and recommended that staff look at current examples at TDSB as a part of their review.

The Toronto-based company was recently purchased by Pattison Outdoor Advertising, one of Canada’s largest advertising companies. The Onestop proposal would include student-generated videos and school news in the content, while up to 30% would be available for commercial advertising, which would be strictly enforced by TDSB guidelines. Ads such as non-smoking, Milk Marketing Board content and information about post-secondary schools would be considered appropriate.

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. However, some critics feel the deal is worth closer to millions with teenagers as the prime target demographic for advertising companies.

“There’s so much money to be made by advertising to kids in schools that you can beat it down, but it’s going to keep popping back up,” said Mr. Glover.

TDSB’s two student trustees said students tell them they don’t want to see advertising in their schools either. “In our consultations, students have said they feel as though school is one of the only ‘safe zones’ where they are free from commercialism and biased messages,” said student trustee Jenny Williams.

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