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Special Report ‘california Reich’ on 146 Pbs Stations

December 14, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

WNET of New York, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate whose audience includes the largest Jewish community in the world, became last night the 146th PBS station to carry “California Reich,” a 58-minute documentary on the psychology and lifestyles of some working class members of the National Socialist White People’s Party in four California communities.

A spokesperson for the national PBS office in Washington told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that 67 of the 270 PBS stations carried the documentary on its scheduled announced date of Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.; that 78 stations telecast it on a delayed schedule after that date during October and November, and that 124 stations have not shown it. But the spokesperson said some of the 124 stations might still carry the documentary.

She explained that each of the 270 affiliates was free to use or reject any programs offered by PBS and that while the national PBS office eventually received reports on which of its affiliates carried a particular program offered through the national office, they were not required to report in advance what nationally-offered programs they planned to telecast.

A spokesman for WNET (Channel 13) told the JTA early in October that “out of concern” for the “sensibilities” of Jewish viewers, it would not show the documentary on Oct. 22 because that date was part of the Succot holiday but declined to say when the documentary would be shown.


The spokesperson in the Washington PBS office said that office had been informed by stations showing the documentary that there had been very few protests in the form of telephone calls or telegrams, either in praise or protest.

But in New York, according to a WNET spokesman, the station received 110 telephone calls before the documentary was shown at 10 p.m. and that 14 members of the Zionist Organization of America picketed the station’s offices in upper Manhattan from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. when, he said, the pickets peacefully dispersed. He said there had been no protests of any kind today. The spokesman added that “we have a very activist audience. We get lots of calls on practically everything viewers like or dislike.”

Robert Kotlowitz, vice-president and director of programming for WNET, issued a statement before the program went on the air in which he said “it is precisely because of the history of Nazism and the insidious growth of certain forms of political expression in our time that we have decided to broadcast this documentary.”

He added that the documentary “is not propaganda, nor is it a defense of the subject. We strongly believe that it throws a clear light on the ugly behavior of American Nazis and that such light brings understanding and the ability to resist subversive movements.”

Albert Chernin, executive vice-chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, in response to a JTA request for comment said the agency had viewed the program “long before it was shown on WNET last night. We alerted our 102 Jewish community relations council members as to its content. We also voiced our concern to PBS which responded by adding an introduction and conclusion putting the program into context” in reference to the numbers and impact of the American Nazis. “Therefore, we did not anticipate any reaction to its showing last night and we have not received any.”


The Washington PBS office spokesperson said there was no significant difference as to geography or population between the areas served by PBS stations relative to those which carried “California Reich” and those which did not. The spokesperson said that there was nothing unusual in the decision of a large number of the 270 affiliated stations not to carry “California Reich.” She said many stations in large Jewish communities carried the program, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.

She said PBS uses the services of the Nielsen rating company in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and that the Nielsen findings were that audiences were substantially higher than for any other documentary shown during October. She said WETA in Washington repeated the showing in response to audience requests.

The documentary was made by two young college graduates, Walter F. Parkes, 24, and Keith Critchlow, 30. They decided to try to make a film about the everyday life and party activities of local members of the Nazi Party. The documentary is done without any commentary, except for statements at the opening and close of the program, referred to by Chernin.

Those statements were made by Clete Roberts, an anchorman-reporter for PBS station KCET in Los Angeles, which purchased the documentary. Commenting that the subjects tell their own story, Roberts said the result of that approach is “perhaps an even more eloquent testimony to the ever-present threat of racism, ignorance and hatred,” a “disturbing reflection of America today.” The film, completed in 1976, attracted PBS attention when it was nominated for an Academy Award. The national PBS spokesperson told the JTA the young producers were paid for the documentary but that she did not know the amount.

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