Mo. TV station’s ban on patriotic symbols leads to $500,000 cut in university budget

MISSOURI — A memo that asked on-air talent at KOMU-TVto remove patriotic symbols will cost the University of Missouri$500,000 from next year’s budget. State legislators, angered bythe decision of the university-owned station, cited retaliationas the reason for making the cut on Wednesday.

Missouri Rep. Martin "Bubs" Hohulin, R-Lamar, ledthe charge for the funding cut. "Call me backwoods, redneck,whatever you want, but it’s flat wrong," he told The Chronicleof Higher Education. "I don’t care about journalisticintegrity or academic freedom. This the real world, OK? Taxpayersget to set the policy. And that’s us."

KOMU news director Stacey Woelfel sent an e-mail to staff onSept. 17, reminding them of the station’s policy against wearingaccessories such as patriotic pins. KOMU, an NBC affiliate inColumbia, is financially independent and used as teaching labfor journalism students. Woelfel is a professor at the university.

The Missouri House of Representatives originally debated a$5-million cut proposed by Hohulin, but later agreed to an amendmentby Rep. Randall Relford, D-Cameron, to slash the budget by $500,000.

Even though the station does not receive any funding from thestate, its connection to the university prompted resentment bylegislators who viewed Woelfel’s memo as unpatriotic in a timeof national pride.

Since the controversy erupted in September, Woelfel has defendedthe station’s policy and the university has supported his decision."We are here to the report the news, not to use ourselvesto display our opinions," Woelfel said.

The $500,000 cut was just one of three taken by the House.Legislators slashed another $220,000 for actions by the universitythat offended them, including political behavior of a lobbyistand a professor’s writings on pedophilia.

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