Campus radio has right to refuse sponsorship

MISSOURI — The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a federal appeals court’sruling in September that said the First Amendment rights of the Knightsof the Ku Klux Klan  were not violated when a college radio stationrefused to allow the organization to sponsor a show in 1997.

KWMU-FM, a public radio station at the University of Missouri’s St.Louis campus, told the Missouri KKK that the station would not allow theorganization to underwrite the popular news show “All Things Considered,”an action the KKK said infringed upon its freedom of speech.

Judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit said thestation’s refusal to allow the KKK to underwrite the program did not violatethe First Amendment because the action was a business decision, not anideological one. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Curators of the Universityof Missouri, 203 F.3d 1085 (8th Cir. 2000) cert. denied, 121 S.Ct.49 (2000).

The court also said KWMU’s decision to accept or reject the funds ofcertain underwriters was itself a form of protected governmental speech.

“Instead of being compelled to open their facilities ‘on a nonselectivebasis to all persons wishing to talk about public issues,’ public broadcastersenjoy the ‘widest journalistic freedom’ consistent with their statutoryobligations to broadcast material serving the ‘public interest, convenienceand necessity,'” the Eighth Circuit said.

Although KWMU was not a student-run station, the ruling could supportthe right of public college student media to reject advertisements andother submissions.