NEW YORK (Oct. 6)
The major public television station in the area, WNET (Channel 13), plans to do its own program dealing with the issues raised by a controvercial television program featuring a Ku Klux Klan leader and an American Nazi leader but has not reached a decision on whether it will telecast the disputed program, a WNET spokesperson said today.
The spokesperson steadfastly refused to comment on a question posed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on whether the WNET decision to produce its own program did not clearly imply a decision not to show a Public Broadcast Service (PBS) “Black Perspective on the News.” The disputed program, taped for PBS by WHYY-TV (Channel 12) of Philadelphia, features David Duke, KKK Imperial Wizard and Frank Collins, American Nazi Party head.
PBS sponsors such programs and offers them to its affiliates, which have the option to determine whether to telecast them. WNET usually shows the 30-minute “Black Perspective” program at noon on Sunday. The spokesperson told the JTA that no date had been set for starting the locally-made WNET program or when it might be shown.
Last week, the same WNET spokesperson said that one of the problems the particular program in the Black Perspective series presented was that it was not the usual 30 minutes. She explained that the 30-minute format had been expanded to 60 minutes to include comments and questions by a panel. Later, in response to strong Jewish protests in Philadelphia, WHYY added a 30-minute segment, giving views of Jewish spokesmen.
The spokesperson said last week that the extension of the segment from 30 to 90 minutes posed severe programming problems for WNET but insisted that public protests would not affect the station’s decision on whether it would show the 90-minute program.
SOME STATIONS DIDN’T SHOW PROGRAM
Three PBS stations did show the 90-minute program last Saturday night–Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The spokesperson told the JTA that WNET had checked with “sister” stations and learned that the PBS stations in Dallas, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Boston had decided not to show the program while the Los Angeles station was still considering it.
The panelists on the 60-minute version 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.
PROGRAM IS DENOUNCED
Under heavy Jewish pressure, WHYY taped an additional 30-minute segment which presented Bertram Gold, American Jewish Committee executive vice-president, Ted Mann, chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, and Herman Floyd, area director of the Pennsylvania State Human Relations Commission, who is Black.
Three Philadelphia branches of community relations agencies and the Jewish Community Relations Council, of which the branches are members, denounced the action of WHYY in presenting the disputed telecast. They were the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Congress. The JCRC denounced the program telecast in a separate statement.
The three local branches called the presentation “a glaring example of irresponsible broadcasting and evidence of callousness and insensitivity to deep-rooted Jewish and Black fears and concerns.” The three agencies said that while they fully supported the constitutional guarantee of free speech, the showing by WHYY “of the Nazi and KKK self-styled leaders over Channel 12 was clearly not in the public interest but rather an abuse of the privileges given to it as a broadcast licensee.”
The agencies said that the station had shown “poor and irresponsible judgment in making available its facility to purveyors of bigotry” and added that the panelists, “notwithstanding their personal abhorrence of bigotry,” in failing to “answer adequately false and malicious statements of the Nazi and Klan hate peddlers compounds the disservice.”
A public demonstration was held in Philadelphia on Sept. 29, sponsored by Brith Sholom, the Jewish War Veterans and the JCRC. The three agencies said they had refrained from joining in the demonstration for several reasons, including the fact that such a demonstration 24 hours in advance of the telecast would swell the viewing audience.
NEED TO AVOID EXAGGERATION
The three agencies agreed that it was necessary to guard “against any temptation to exaggerate the importance of either the National Socialist Party of America or the Ku Klux Klan on the national scene, or to depict them as a clear and present danger to the continued existence of the United States as a democratic republic.” However, they added, “we would be foolish to minimize the potential for trouble, disorder and even violence which confronts any community such as this tri-state area in the Delaware Valley.”
A WHYY participant in the program declared in its introductory portion that the station felt it was part of its public function to educate the public to such “political poisons” as the views of Duke and Collins.
A Jewish spokesman in Philadelphia told the JTA that it appeared evident that the panelists had not dealt effectively with the racist and anti-Semitic comments of the KKK and Nazi speakers. He suggested there probably was no way to respond effectively to such bigotry.
Gold said that when the station took “these psychopaths and treat them seriously, you give them dignity, status and a degree of responsibility–a legitimization–which they do not deserve. “He called the statements by Duke and Collins a form of “political pornography.”
Mann said the program did not “tie up” what Duke and Collins said with “the results that occurred in history–that the master race philosophy causes death–six million Jews, six million Christians, thousands and thousands of Blacks who were lynched, raped and degraded.” Floyd said that “Black people know what the Ku Klux Klan has done over the years to them. Jews know what the philosophy of Nazism has done to them. So we don’t need this additional kind of exposure.”