Radio station cries censorship after Fla. student government cut its funding

FLORIDA — A battle over the First Amendment rights ofa student-run radio station has erupted at the University of North Florida afterthe student government attempted to use its power over student-fee allocationsto censor the station.Elizabeth Macke, station manager for Osprey Radio,said the Jacksonville university’s student government effectively censored theInternet-based station by slashing its budget and placing guidelines on whatmusic it should play because student senators did not approve of the station’scontent.Osprey Radio requested $42,000 in student-fee allocations fromthe student government for the 2004-2005 academic year. Instead, the studentgovernment attempted to deny all funding to the radio station and eventuallyallocated only $7,000, Macke said. This academic year, the station received$29,000 from the student government. In addition, the student governmentstipulated that the station conduct student surveys twice a month to determinewhat music it should play. Macke said she believes the station’sfunding was cut because student senators did not like the music it plays or thetalk shows it airs.The student senators expressed their views on theradio station’s content during the student-fee allocation process.According to minutes of the Jan. 31 budget committee meeting, student senatorAustin Cassidy said, ”I listened to about an hour and a half and it was…the filthiest, most vulgar, disgusting, unbelievable stuff.”Osprey Radio does not play popular or Top 40 music, Macke said. Thestation’s playlist consists primarily of independent artists and specialtyshows, such as reggae, bluegrass, metal, classical and jazz.Macke saidthat after the budget committee meeting, she filed a discrimination complaintwith the Student Government Judicial Branch against two student senators,claiming that the budget cut was unconstitutional and the senators’ opinions ofthe station’s content ”should have had no bearing on theirdecision.” Macke said the two senators were disciplined as aresult.Student Government President Chas Jordan said the budget chairmanwas suspended from his student government positions for 30 days and the othersenator was suspended from his position for 20 days. Jordan said he is not surewhy the budget chairman was given a longer sentence.Jimmy Johnson,budget chairman, said he wrote the guidelines into the allocation, but was toldto do so by other members of the student senate.”You’ll see[the language] is a suggestion,” Johnson said. ”We’re nottelling them that they have to play things, we’re telling them,