Fcc Says Anti-semitic Statements Broadcast on Wbal Were Protected by 1st Amendment

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that anti-Semitic statements broadcast over WBAI-FM, a New York radio station, last December and January, were protected by the guarantee of free speech in the First Amendment of the Constitution and that it has no authority to judge or act on the broadcast. The FCC statement was contained in a letter to Dan Sanders, public relations director of the United Federation of Teachers, who had lodged a complaint over the reading of an anti-Semitic poem dedicated to Albert Shanker, teachers’ union president. The poem, purportedly written by a Negro student, was read by Leslie R. Campbell, a militant Negro teacher, on the “Julius Lester Program,” a panel show. The UFT demanded that the FCC refuse to renew the station’s license.

The FCC also held that WBAI-FM did not violate the “fairness doctrine” which requires presentation of contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance. The government agency said the station acknowledged that the broadcast material was “patently anti-Semitic” but said it was aired in order “to illuminate bigotry.” In a letter to the WBAI management, the FCC said, “If there is to be free speech, it must be freedom for speech that we abhor and hate as well as for speech that we find tolerable and congenial.”

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