Campus radio has right to refuse sponsorship

Supreme Court denies Ku Klux Klan's appeal

MISSOURI -- The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a federal appeals court's ruling in September that said the First Amendment rights of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan  were not violated when a college radio station refused 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 the organization 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 the station's refusal to allow the KKK to underwrite the program did not violate the First Amendment because the action was a business decision, not an ideological one. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Curators of the University of 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 of certain underwriters was itself a form of protected governmental speech.

"Instead of being compelled to open their facilities 'on a nonselective basis to all persons wishing to talk about public issues,' public broadcasters enjoy the 'widest journalistic freedom' consistent with their statutory obligations to broadcast material serving the 'public interest, convenience and necessity,'" the Eighth Circuit said.

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

reports, Winter 2000-01