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Television station's rules lead to cuts in university's budget

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    NMU         MISSOURI         Broadcasting         Apr 12, 2002    

Television station’s rules lead to cuts in university’s budget

  • A policy against wearing patriotic buttons at a Missouri television station affiliated with a local university prompted legislative proposals that the university’s budget be cut.

A state legislature voted to slash a university’s budget after the television station it owns expanded a rule prohibiting broadcasters from wearing personal messages on camera to include American flags and other patriotic symbols.

The Missouri House of Representatives voted April 3 to clip the University of Missouri’s budget by $500,000 as a protest of KOMU-TV 8’s policy.

Stacey Woelfel, the station’s news director, e-mailed what he termed a “preemptive memo” to all reporters on Sept. 17 reminding them not to wear buttons, ribbons or any other expressive materials while on air. He says the policy is a long-standing one that “wasn’t implemented just in this case.”

Sen. John Russell (R-Lebanon) said he doesn’t think that the university’s budget should be cut, but stresses that he doesn’t agree with Woelfel’s policy either.

“America stood up, but not this dummy,” he said. “What happened to common sense in the media?”

KOMU is an NBC affiliate but is owned by the university and falls under campus administration. According to its Web site, “KOMU-TV is the only university-owned television station in the United States utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.”

Russell said that he is unsure how the Senate will vote on the proposed cuts, but added that “we may finally dismiss it.”

No matter what the final decision is, Woelfel said that he “won’t change the policy.”


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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