NEW YORK (Sep. 27)
A spokesperson for the area’s public broadcasting television station, WNET (Channel 13), said today that no decision had yet been made on whether WNET would show a program featuring spokesmen for the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. The spokesperson also told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that a meeting might be held next week to make a decision.
The spokesperson said that the American Jewish Congress and the New York Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) had been in error in reporting late last week that they had received assurances that the program, taped by WHYY-TV in Philadelphia, would not be shown by WNET.
The disputed program is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show, “Black Perspective on the News,” which features David Duke, Imperial Wizard of the KKK, and Frank Collin, head of the American Nazi Party. As a nationally syndicated PBS program, it is offered to public service TV stations around the country. It is usually shown at noon Sundays over WNET.
JEWISH GROUPS NOTE PROMISES
Julius Schatz, AJCongress media specialist, had said he had received assurances from WNET officials that the program would not be shown, following protests to the TV station by the AJCongress and other Jewish groups. Malcolm Hoenlein, JCRC executive director, said that the JCRC had been told by an “authorized spokesman” for WNET that the program would not be shown in New York City and that the JCRC had been “assured we will be notified of any change.”
Naomi Levine, AJCongress executive director, said she sent a letter to WNET expressing satisfaction on the purported withdrawal of the program and over the fact that WNET would not “disseminate the hateful views of these two bigots.”
Disclaiming censorship efforts, Ms. Levine said the issue was the program judgment of the station, adding, “We believe that any decision by Channel 13 to broadcast a program admittedly racist and anti-Semitic in content, a discussion which has been described by station WHYY” as containing “contradictory and factually inaccurate” statements, would be “an act of irresponsible and wretched program judgment.”
Hoenlein also said that the Jewish Community Relations Council in Philadelphia had written to the president of WHYY, stating the Council’s “deep concern” that the station was “providing a public forum for odious and inhumane views which have led to the genocide or six million Jews in Europe and an equal number of Christians and others, and to the brutalization and murder of Blacks in this country.”
According to Hoenlein, the protests led WHYY to postpone telecast of the program until Sept. 30, giving WHYY officials “the opportunity to consider seriously whether the public is effectively served when a public television station provides a special forum, for whatever reason, to those whose platform calls for brutalization, killing and genocide.”
CLAIMS JEWISH GROUPS MISUNDERSTOOD
The WNET spokesperson said today that the two Jewish agencies had misunderstood the nature of the station’s responses and that the station had not made a commitment not to telecast the disputed program which is an hour in length, double its usual time. The spokesperson also noted that WHYY-TV was preparing a new 30-minute concluding section for the expanded program, which will extend it to 90 minutes. She said no decision will be made on local showing of the disputed program until the additional 30-minute segment is screened here.
The spokesperson said a major problem was that the expansion of the program from 30 to 90 minutes posed a major programming problem and that this was a prime consideration in whether or not the disputed program would be telecast. She insisted that such decisions were “an internal matter” and not affected by public protests.
She also said that the station had not received the commendatory letter Ms. Levine was quoted as having sent to WNET. She also said that the decision on whether or not to use the disputed program would be a “team” decision of key management personnel.
The spokesperson said the PBS had notified WNET that another 30-minute segment was under preparation by WHYY and that, after receiving notification from PBS to that effect, WNET officials followed routine procedure in withholding scheduling pending a screening of the additional material.
PROGRAM HIT AS GROSSLY OFFENSIVE
Hoenlein, in announcing WNET’s purported assurances, said that reports from JCRCs in other parts of the country, which have previewed the program, indicate that it is “very bad” and that Duke and Collins “make statements that are grossly offensive to Jews and Blacks and the panelists do not effectively respond to the anti-Semitic statements.”
The panelists are the moderator, Dr. Charles King, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Racism; Dr. Lawrence Reddick, Black history specialist at Harvard University; and Reginald Bryant, who produces segments of the program for WHYY. The 30-minute additional segment reportedly gives reactions by Jewish leaders to the comments of Duke and Collins.
Officials of the AJCongress and the JCRC could not be reached for their comments on the disclaimers given today by WNET because their offices were closed for Succot.