MU funding for KOMU part of dispute with Mediacom

Thursday, January 6, 2011 | 6:39 p.m. CST; updated 1:46 p.m. CST, Friday, January 7, 2011
Arguing it’s partially supported by taxpayers, Mediacom said it shouldn’t have to compensate KOMU-TV like other local stations for programming. The station, though, says MU only helps fund part of four employees’ salaries and a portion of maintenance costs. The four MU employees working at KOMU receive roughly 44 percent of their combined salaries from MU.

COLUMBIA –  The funding KOMU-TV receives from MU has taken center stage in the dispute between the station and cable company Mediacom. 

Whether the funding is a lot seems to be a pivotal issue in ongoing contract negotiations between the two parties.

According to Mediacom, KOMU is supported by the University of Missouri, a nonprofit institution funded in part by state taxpayers. Thus, the company argues that it should not be compensated for programming as other local stations are.

According to KOMU, it "operates like any other commercial station, earning revenue generated by commercial advertising sales, production and retransmission fees. It is a self-sufficient auxiliary enterprise of the University of Missouri."

So how much funding does the university channel to KOMU, which serves both as a NBC network affiliate and a teaching laboratory for broadcast journalism students?

MU does help fund faculty salaries, and KOMU receives an amount for building maintenance, but the station generates revenue to cover operating expenses.

MU partially pays the salaries of four broadcast faculty working at KOMU, based on a ratio between teaching and production time. In 2010-2011, the amount provided by the university ranged from 21 percent to 89 percent — or $14,194 to $65,053.

"KOMU's newscast is a shared responsibility of the journalism school and the station management," said Kent Collins, chair of the broadcast journalism sequence.

KOMU also receives money for building maintenance and repair. In 2009, the amount was $21,916.

According to the MU News Bureau,  the university doesn't transfer any operating funds to KOMU to cover the daily expenses at the station, including staff and production costs.

KOMU generates operating funds largely through advertising sales and other sources of revenue. In fiscal year 2011, the station is expected to derive $9.7 million in revenue.

KOMU returns 4 percent of its income in administrative fees to the university.

Meanwhile, negotiations continued Thursday without a resolution. KOMU has been off the cable lineup since 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

On Saturday, NBC is carrying two NFL playoff games. Mediacom has planned a "Wildcard Watch Party" with refreshments at Harpo's Sports Bar for fans and cable customers.

NFL games after Saturday will be carried on CBS and Fox Sports networks.

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Chris Hill January 6, 2011 | 7:33 p.m.

I wouldn't call it a big loser since it does pay money back to the university. On the other hand, what other commercial media outlet gets its building maintenance for free? I think the KOMU advertisers could get tired of this real quick.

The idea that local stations should be paid for being carried on cable always struck me as odd. Who's getting the larger market here The cable companies by carrying the local channels (I doubt it) or the local channels for being easily available on the cable systems? If anything the local channels should be paying the cable operators.

(Report Comment)
Scott Baker January 7, 2011 | 3:12 p.m.

Given that people pay for cable, how many would actually pay if the local stations were not available. The majority of television viewing even on cable is to local stations.

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