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News director named to legislative committee on police body cameras . June 13, 2018

The news director at WISN-TV in Milwaukee has been named to sit on a Legislative Council Study Committee to study the use of police body cameras in Wisconsin.

Ben Hart testified to an Assembly committee in January in opposition to a bill proposed in the last session of the legislature that would have established rules for how law enforcement releases body camera footage to the public. While the WBA supports efforts to regulate the use of police body cameras and the footage gathered by the cameras, the WBA expressed concerned about the bill citing portions of the proposal that would have made it more difficult to get access to the video.  … Read More

WBA Foundation sets candidate criteria for primary debates . June 4, 2018

The WBA Foundation has set criteria to determine which candidates will participate in live debates televised statewide in the Democratic primary in the race for the Governor of Wisconsin and the Republican primary in the race for a Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat.

The Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will debate Saturday, July 21 at 7 p.m. in Wausau. The Democratic candidates for governor will debate Friday, July 27 at 7 p.m. in Madison. Both will be broadcast to a statewide audience. Broadcasters in the Madison and Wausau/Rhinelander markets will participate in the debate.

It is the WBA Foundation’s goal to provide a forum to help educate voters on the issues in these campaigns and provide for a good exchange of ideas between the most significant candidates for each office.  … Read More

Panelists named for WBA Foundation primary debates . April 23, 2018

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation has named the panelists who will be asking questions during two televised statewide primary debates scheduled for July.

The primary debate between Democrats in the gubernatorial primary will be held on Friday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at NBC15 (WMTV-TV) in Madison. The debate between Republicans in the U.S. Senate primary will be held Saturday, July 21 at 7 p.m. at WSAW-TV in Wausau.

The panelists for the Democratic gubernatorial primary will be:


Jessica Arp, WISC-TV


Emilee Fannon, WKOW-TV


Leigh Mills,  … Read More

Rutledge named 2018 Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog . March 26, 2018

Originally published by WisconsinWatch.org

Raquel Rutledge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has been named the 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.

The award recognizes an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin and is a highlight of the eighth annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner, set for April 19.

Rutledge received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and other major awards for uncovering rampant fraud in a Wisconsin child-care program for low-wage working parents. She won further accolades for investigations that exposed how contaminated baby wipes at a local firm led to the death of a Houston toddler,  … Read More

WBA Foundation expands debates to statewide primaries . March 19, 2018

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation is expanding its election year tradition of hosting broadcast debates by adding debates for this year’s statewide primary races. The hour-long debates for the Democratic gubernatorial race and Republican U.S. Senate race will be offered to radio and television stations across the state for live or delayed broadcast.
 
“The high level of interest in this year’s elections prompted us to organize debates for the hotly-contested statewide primaries,” WBA Foundation President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind said. “We are proud that Wisconsin’s broadcasters can bring the citizens forums that can help them be informed voters.”
 
The Democratic candidates for governor will debate Friday July 27 at 7 p.m.

Awards to recognize openness, lack of openness . March 7, 2018

Each year since 2007, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has given out Openness in Government awards, or Opees, to worthy recipients. Most are positive, including one this year to Gov. Scott Walker. But there is a negative award, and others highlight less-than-commendable players.

The awards, part of the Council’s observance of national Sunshine Week (sunshineweek.org), March 11-17, will be presented at the eighth annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards dinner in Madison on Thursday, April 19.

The winners are:

Citizen Openness Award (“Copee”): Joe Terry

This former village administrator for Port Edwards in central Wisconsin alleged multiple open meetings and ethics violations by the village board.  … Read More

Wisconsin broadcasters go to Capitol Hill . February 28, 2018

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association took more than 35 broadcasters to Capitol Hill on Feb. 28 to meet with the state’s legislative delegation to talk about issues important to helping broadcasters continue their public service mission.

The broadcasters met in the offices of all eight House representatives including the office of Speaker Paul Ryan. They also met with both Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. 

The legislative visits came the day after the NAB’s State Leadership Conference held at the JW Marriott in Washington D.C.

Thank you to the broadcasters who joined us in DC for the visits and to the lawmakers and their staffs for taking the time to meet with us.  … Read More

Is it taking more time to get open records requests fulfilled? . February 8, 2018

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is looking for more information about the time it takes for newsrooms to have open records requests fulfilled.

There was anecdotal evidence presented at the meeting suggesting the wait times are getting longer. We would like to find out what you and your reporters are experiencing.

First, are you seeing longer waits? If so, on what types of records are you seeing the greatest delays and from what agencies? Contact Kyle Geissler with any observations.

The council is not proposing any remedies at this point, but would find this feedback valuable as it continues to study the issue.  … Read More

News directors testify on body cameras bill . February 5, 2018

The news directors from two Wisconsin television stations testified to a State Senate committee about their concerns with a bill that would regulate the use of police body cameras and public access to video collected by the cameras.

Ben Hart from WISN-TV in Milwaukee and Sean Dwyer from WXOW-TV in La Crosse said the bill’s rules about the release of video footage creates numerous complicated layers that don’t properly balance the goal of protecting privacy with the public’s right to know. They asked the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee to consider sending the issue to a study committee for further review.  … Read More

Column: Citizens have a right to electronic records . February 2, 2018

Computers have made examining government records easier than ever. The smallest townships across Wisconsin post the meeting agendas and minutes online. And websites for government agencies at all levels contain an enormous amount of other information.

Electronic records are also available on request. Say you want to see a skate-park-feasibility study you’ve heard about. You can request this record from the agency that keeps it, and receive it via email. The whole process can be completed in minutes.

In the past, such a request might have meant days of waiting for a paper copy with a per-page reproduction cost,  … Read More

Nominations sought for 2018 Opee Awards . January 29, 2018

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a nonprofit group that works to protect access to public meetings and records, is now accepting nominations for its annual Openness in Government Awards, or Opees. Awards are given in six categories:

Popee (political openness award): Recognizes extraordinary service to the cause of open government by an elected or appointed official, agency, or group of officials.

Mopee (media openness award): Recognizes extraordinary service to the cause of open government by a media member or organization.

Copee (citizen openness award): Recognizes extraordinary service to the cause of open government by a member of the public or public group.  … Read More

Broadcaster testifies in favor of tax exemption bill . December 28, 2017

A Mauston radio broadcaster testified on Dec. 12 in front of a Wisconsin State Senate committee in support of a bill that would provide a sales and use tax exemption for commercial radio and TV stations.

Jim Murphy owns WRJC-AM/FM in Mauston. He told the Senate Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions & Rural Issues that the bill is a technical fix to give the Department of Revenue the tools necessary to determine whether or not towers, transmitters and satellite dishes are eligible to be considered for a sales tax exemption.

“When this sales tax exemption was for proposed,  … Read More

Majority of House of Representatives backs Local Radio Freedom Act . December 13, 2017

A majority of the House of Representatives now supports the Local Radio Freedom Act after a bipartisan group of five House members signed a resolution opposing “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” on local broadcast radio stations. The Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA) now has 220 cosponsors in the House, two more than is needed to constitute a majority in the 438-member body. There are 25 LRFA co-sponsors in the Senate.

“We’re gratified that most House members stand with America’s hometown radio stations against a job-killing performance royalty,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith.  … Read More

FCC approves new ownership rules, ATSC 3.0 . November 16, 2017

The FCC on Thursday approved new ownership rules that would allow companies to own a television station and newspaper or television station and radio station in the same market.

The rule would also allow the FCC to waive on a case-by-case basis a ban on owning two of the top television stations in the same market. The order says the rules “is no longer necessary to promote viewpoint diversity in the modern media marketplace.” A release from the FCC said, “These actions will provide broadcasters and local newspapers with a greater opportunity to compete in the digital age and will help ensure a diversity of viewpoints in local markets.”

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the change will help large media companies grow even larger.  … Read More

Broadcasters call on peers to join State Legislative Day .

Wisconsin broadcasters who have participated in State Legislative Day are calling on their peers to join them for calls on the State Capitol on Jan. 31.

A video published this week explains why it’s important for broadcasters to visit their lawmakers and talk about issues facings broadcasters and their markets.

To join State Legislative Day, register here:

https://www.wi-broadcasters.org/events/winter-conference-state-legislative-day/  … Read More

Senate version of tax reform preserves ad tax deductibility . November 10, 2017

The U.S. Senate version of a tax reform bill released this week preserves the deductibility of business advertising expenses.

“Local broadcasters support tax reform that promotes economic growth and job creation, and it is undeniable that advertising is a stimulus for both,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “NAB looks forward to working with members on both sides of the Capitol towards comprehensive reform that creates a fair and sensible tax code to the benefit of American businesses and families.”

The House version of the tax reform bill also preserves the deductibility of business advertising expenses.  … Read More

Assembly committee approves police body camera bill . October 31, 2017

The Wisconsin State Assembly’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday to send a bill to the floor that addressed issues surrounding the use of police body cameras. The committee voted along party lines. The bill passed 8-4.

Among other things, the bill would set in place a process for the release of police body camera video when the video shows victims or witnesses who have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The WBA has registered as neutral on the bill with stated concerns about limits the bill would put on media access to the videos.  … Read More

Concerns raised about drone restrictions for newsrooms .

Multiple layers of regulations could affect the ability of newsrooms to use drones for news gathering, according to a report presented to the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Wisconsin State Journal photojournalist Michel King spoke to the council Oct. 26 saying that some state and local governmental agencies are placing restrictions on airspace beyond the FAA rules applied by the federal government, creating what could become a patchwork of regulations for commercial drone operators to navigate.

King cited the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin DNR as examples of agencies that have such rules in place.  … Read More

WBA testifies about concerns with police body camera bill . October 5, 2017

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association testified Thursday before the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee about concerns with a bill to create statewide standards for the release of video obtained by body cameras used by law enforcement.

While the WBA supports the creation of a statewide standard for the release of video from police body cameras, some of the provisions proposed could create an “extremely cumbersome, inefficient, time consuming” process for getting access to the videos.

This is the testimony provided to the committee:

Please be assured that this is an important issue for the broadcast news industry.  … Read More

Sen. Baldwin takes lead on advertising deductibility . October 2, 2017

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin is one of two senators taking the lead in an effort to make sure the deductibility of advertising expenses remains law as legislators review options for tax reform.

Sen. Baldwin is joining Sen. John Boozman from Arkansas in drafting a letter to Senate leadership urging them to leave the current tax treatment of advertising in place. This is similar to an effort in made in the House earlier this year.

A tax reform proposal that was introduced last week by the administration and Congressional leadership did not contain specifics, but advertising deductibility is considered to be “on the table” as an option to help pay for tax reforms.  … Read More

Open records requests also open to public . August 16, 2017

Did you know that when you file an open records request with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, that request is itself a public record?

The DOJ is now posting regular reports of who has filed open records requests with its office. If you’re a reporter, you might want to take this into consideration whether you want to see what others are requesting or perhaps you’re plotting your own plan to get documents from the DOJ.

The document is updated weekly and posted here.

The DOJ is considering a proposal to make all open records responses,  … Read More

Rep. Sensenbrenner proposes music licensing database . July 21, 2017

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced a proposal this week to establish a database of licensing information for musical works and sound recordings.

The Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act is meant to help anyone using music look up the licensing status of the music to determine how they could use it legally.

“Across the country, businesses and establishments play or perform music for the enjoyment of their patrons, but the process of ensuring they are legally able to do so, as well as those who hold the license to the music or recordings being played are fairly compensated,  … Read More

State Supreme Court delivers open government victory . June 30, 2017

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled unanimously in support of open government advocates in a case involving a school district that held closed-door meetings.

The June 29 ruling said the Appleton Area School District violated open meetings law when it allowed a committee to review curriculum in a closed setting. The court ruled that the committee counts as a governmental body and should be subject to open meetings law.

Justice Michael Gableman wrote the decision. He dismissed the district’s concerns that subjecting such groups to the open meetings law “would be detrimental to the functioning of government.”

“We are not at liberty to exempt (the group) from the definition of ‘governmental body’  … Read More

FCC Chairman Pai, Sen. Johnson connect with Wisconsin broadcasters . June 5, 2017

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Sen. Ron Johnson took time June 5 to meet with Wisconsin broadcasters at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and Pai went on to tour other broadcasters in the state.

Chairman Pai was in Wisconsin as part of a “heartland trip” across the Northern Plains to speak to people about how to make the FCC work for them. He was joined by Sen. Johnson during the Wisconsin leg of his trip where he met with broadcasters and broadband providers.

More than 25 managers from Wisconsin radio and TV stations came to Milwaukee to meet with Chairman Pai and Sen.  … Read More

Vetterkind testifies in support of repealing personal property tax . May 24, 2017

WBA President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind testified twice to state lawmakers in support of repealing Wisconsin’s personal property tax. She testified on May 24 before the Senate Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues and on June 1 before the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

Vetterkind argued that the personal property tax is a burden to broadcasters, who maintain many pieces of equipment subject to the tax.

“The next time you are in your local TV or radio station to do an interview or a show, take a look around at all the equipment that is needed to put the interview you just did out over the air,” Vetterkind testified.  … Read More

WBA hits the Hill, FCC for an action-packed DC Trip . March 1, 2017

The WBA’s Annual DC Trip took place Feb. 28 and March 1. Executive Committee members Nancy Douglass, WLKG-FM, Lake Geneva, Steve Lavin, WBAY-TV, Green Bay, along with WBA Federal Legislative Chair Roger Utnehmer, Nicolet Broadcasting, Sturgeon Bay; Jan Wade, WISN-TV, Milwaukee, and WBA President & CEO Michelle Vetterkind along with WBA Director of Communications Kyle Geissler attended the Leadership Conference which was held Feb. 28.

Vetterkind joined a panel at the morning session to discuss strategies for connecting with lawmakers and provided examples for how the WBA does this using social media.

To complete our delegation of 33 WBA representatives,  … Read More

Committee votes on changes to online court records . February 16, 2017

A committee convened by the director of state courts is reviewing issues regarding the state’s online court records system: Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, or WCCA, which most people refer to as CCAP. 

The committee is the third convened to ponder changes to the system, the other two being in 2000 and 2005. Those committees resulted in refinements to WCCA, including changes to how information is presented.

The current committee has more than two dozen members representing people inside and outside the court system, including Beth Bennett of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, and Michelle Vetterkind of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.  … Read More

WBA gets new hotline attorney for FCC issues . December 23, 2016

With the retirement of our long-time D.C. counselor, Dick Zaragoza, as of Jan. 1, David Oxenford of the Washington D.C. law firm of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP will be our new “hotline” attorney for FCC issues. Feel free to call or email David with general questions about FCC legal issues, and David or someone from his firm will try to help you – at no charge to the station. Keep the questions general, as the hotline is not meant to review specific copy for ads or other broadcast material, and David and his firm will not be acting as your attorneys,  … Read More

WBA files brief in open meetings case involving Appleton School Board . December 5, 2016

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association has filed an amicus brief alongside the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council supporting the plaintiff in an open meetings case against the Appleton School District Board that’s been appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

A letter from the three organizations to Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel explains the case:

In this case, a committee of 17 teachers, administrators and staff members in the School District of Appleton was tasked with reviewing potential works of fiction to be included in a ninth grade reading curriculum. The committee, over the course of six months,  … Read More

2016 Post Election Update . November 11, 2016

Pillsbury has issued a post-election outlook after the victory of Donald Trump. You can read it here [PDF].  … Read More

Looking for insights on the election? . November 3, 2016

Our friends at Pillsbury have released their election night guide [PDF]. It’s a great guide to all the big races being tallied around the country. Take a look before election night.  … Read More