By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Just before the homecoming football game against Clarkston Sept. 24, Oxford Community Television Station Manager Bill Service made some “inappropriate comments” caught by a hot mic on a livestream video. Service was serving as a commentator in the press box alongside announcer Rod Wright.
“Oxford Community Schools in no way condones the commentary made as it does not uphold our values,” the school district said in a statement the morning following the comments. “We have contacted OCTV and will be investigating the situation. Access to the video has been removed until the inappropriate portion can be edited out and it can be reposted. OCTV is not a part of the Oxford Community Schools District nor are their personnel employed by the district.”
Edited video of the game was reposted Sept. 28. Service submitted his resignation Sept. 29.
The Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission (OACCC), the board that oversees OCTV, appointed OCTV Production Manager Teri Stiles as fulltime interim station manager, with the same pay as Service, at a special meeting Oct. 8.
When asked what was inappropriate about the comments – if they were swear words, something racist or sexual harassment – OACCC Chair Ed Hunwick said it was none of those things. “The comments were about a certain individual, and that’s about all I can say.” He also said when Service realized his comments were overheard, he knew he was in trouble and resigned quickly.
Hunwick made a formal apology to the school district at the Oct. 12 school board meeting. “He didn’t realize he was on air, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the comments that he made were quite inappropriate . . . these comments were completely off-base from what we know of this individual in the past, so it was very embarrassing to our board and our remaining staff. And I’m here to apologize to this board, to the community and the school district for those comments.”
Hunwick said he hopes the local access TV station can maintain its vital relationship with the school district, because the schools provide 60-70 percent of its content. “Without the school district, I don’t think we need to exist,” he said. “So it’s important for us to maintain a strong relationship with the school district and we’re going to do our very best to make sure situations like that never happen again.”
Stiles and Office Manager Dave Kenny put together a new seven-point protocol for setting up livestream equipment, to prevent similar incidents in the future. “In addition to the safeguards protocol,” Stiles told the cable commission, “we ordered an ‘on-air’ light that gets plugged right into the switchboard, and as soon as that board goes on, that ‘on-air’ light will go on as well. So we’re not dependent on the person to turn that light on. . . It will be displayed for everyone to see in the press box or wherever we’re shooting.”
School Board President Tom Donnelly thanked Hunwick for letting them know what occurred. “We accept your apology,” he said. “And most importantly, thank you for the corrective action steps you are putting in place to prevent future incidents.”
Bill Service spent nearly 60 years in broadcasting. He took over as OCTV station manager after the commission fired Ken LaPlace in July 2013. He created and hosted the program “Our Community Access” and won numerous awards while at OCTV, most recently the 2020 Oxford Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award along with Teri Stiles.