KPFA AND THE ADMINSTRATION
No other medium of communication has
consistently given such generous and impartial coverage of University affairs as KPFA, the
listener-sponsored FM radio station located in Berkeley. In addition to carrying dozens of
lectures and conferences given on campus under the formal auspices of the University, KPFA
regularly gives air time to events sponsored by various student groups. For example, at
one time this station carried a series of commentaries called "On-Campus
Politics", on which students of all political outlooks from left to right expressed
their views. Thus, KPFA has served and continues to serve as a vital channel of
communication and education among the students, the faculty, the Administration and the
community at large -- certainly the state's most discriminating radio audience.
For a dramatic and detailed understanding of
KPFA's relations to University affairs,one might turn to the circumstances attendant upon
the station's (proposed) coverage of the debate between Fred Schwarz, leader of the
Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, and William Mandel, a prominent Sovietologist and
commentator for KPFA. The debate took place January 26, 1962, under the auspices of SLATE.
The debate ran into trouble even before a
word was spoken. Originally, the topic of the Mandel-Schwarz debate was this:
"Resolved: Communist Professors Should be Fired." This title was the one
specified by Mr. Schwarz. However, shortly before the debate was to take place, Dean Towle
spoke to SLATE, saying that the debate could not be held on such a resolution. The
Administration's fear was that someone might misconstrue this topic as an admission that
there were, indeed, Communists on the faculty at the University of California. SLATE was
further informed by Miss Towle that the debate would take place only if the subject were,
"Should universities have as faculty members persons who are also members of the
Communist Party?" Mr. Mandel, of course, was put in the position of having to take
the affirmative on this question, which he did.
Whether the debate was formally open to the
public or not, the controversial appeal of its topic and its participants made it a public
event. In fact, no registration cards or other identification were required of spectators
for entrance into Wheeler Auditorium, the campus and local press were present in force,
and recordings of the debate were made by the University, the Christian Anti-Communist
Crusade (for later distribution and sale) and at least two or three other interested
parties. (1) Thus, any distinction of the debate as an
"on-campus" or "off-campus" event disappeared.
Very soon after the debate, KPFA applied to
the University for use of its tape of the proceedings. In doing so, KPFA was following its
usual practice; for five years the station had been permitted to broadcast its own or
Language Laboratory tapes of University -- or student-sponsored events, in toto,
or segmentally. The station used the Language Lab tapes whenever possible to minimize its
own expenses. Some of these tapes recorded events sponsored by such student groups as ASUC
Forum (a speech by Mr. Schwarz on January 5, 1962), SLATE (a speech by Frank Wilkinson),
Graduate Economics Student Association, University Young Democrats, and the Boalt Hall
Young Democrats. Until the Mandel-Schwarz debate, no radio station besides KPFA had taped
or acquired tapes of student-sponsored events. The Administration had never placed
restrictions (except signed releases by participants, if necessary) on such tapes; neither
had it required prior notification and approval of such taping and use of tapes. But, for
whatever reason, the Adminstration chose to place a restriction (regardless of signed
releases) on use of its tape of the debate. It specified that this tape must not be
broadcast in toto, that it be billed as "excerpts" from the debate.
After both Mandel and Schwarz signed releases, KEAR, which had also applied for use of the
University's tape, agreed to the provision regarding "excerpts", and
subsequently broadcast which excerpts they chose. KPFA did not agree to the provision and
thus lost its usual privilege. Although "excerpts" remained undefined, although
the station might have broadcast 99.9% of the debate, the tape would remain only
"excerpts". In view of this, KPFA decided to act on principle, i.e., to be
satisfied with nothing less than its usual full coverage, and to avoid acquiescing in what
might thereby become an undesirable precedent.
In placing such a restriction on the
broadcasting of the tape, the Administration (2)
invoked a long-standing regulation: " Student meetings or events, with the exception
of regularly recurring athletic, forensic, dramatic or musical activities, shall not be
open to the public without specific prior approval by the Chief Campus Officer or his
designated representative." (3) To make the
regulation apply to KPFA, it was necessary to regard the station as representing the
general public, which it does. But what of press coverage, (4)
and the indiscriminate admission to the Auditorium? Besides disregarding the de facto
public nature of the debate, the Administration chose to extend what had applied rather
obviously to seating policy, to radio coverage, but not to press coverage. And as
far as KPFA was more specifically concerned, the Adminstration had invoked and broadened
the rule in ex post facto fashion.
One can only suppose that these rather
mystifying actions must have proceeded from assumptions which were more than clear to
someone within the Administration. An obvious conjecture, which assumes that the
controversial nature of the debate was responsible for the restriction, is that the
Administration, presented with adverse criticism, might have been able to imply that
"excerpts do not tell the entire story." Thus "excerpts" receives the
definition of "safety valve".
Mr. Mandel himself has supplied another
conjecture. He feels that his outspoken criticism, in the course of the debate itself, of
the Administration's actions in the loyalty oath controversy during the early '50's, and
his association with KPFA, may have combined to elicit such administrative restrictions.
A third conjecture comes, here in paraphrase,
from a highly placed official of the Administration itself: On the one hand, mass media
cannot be entirely excluded from these programs, lest the public become suspicious about
the goings-on at the University. On the other hand, the University is fearful of having a
controversial speaker exploit the University's prestige through over-publicity of his
University appearance. No disclaimer of endorsement by the University would be adequate to
remove the inference of University endorsement. (In this connection, Dean Towle's care
about the wording of the forensic resolution should come to mind.) None of these
conjectures is verifiable. None is, conversely, capable of being disproved.
There are at least two objections which can
answer any "reason" or "conjecture" that the Administration would seem
capable of advancing in behalf of its own actions in this case. The first is Mr. Mandel's:
"The policy of permitting excerpted quotations at the discretion of the reporter
makes possible misrepresentation of what was said when there is no possibility for the
public to hear or read the full text." (5) The
second objection is a broader correlation of the first: if the Administration is worried
about unfavorable publicity, it should be more than willing to permit full reportage of
entire programs, since local and national press editing is commonly slanted toward daily
sensation, to the chagrin of the Administration and the misrepresentation of the
The embroglio concerning tapes of the
Mandel-Schwarz debate was a unique series of events only in that such a series has
occurred neither before nor since. It is unique but not isolated. The following September,
there appeared in the brochure "Information for Student Organizations" (page 9)
the following: "Recordings of events which were sponsored by student organizations
and open only to a campus audience, may be (similarly) released, provided they are to be
played to a campus audience." It is probable that this regulation creates more
questions than it lays to rest, for, apart from the difficulty of deciding what
constitutes a "campus audience," the phrase "open to the public"
alludes to the disputable broadened regulation, quoted above, which was originally invoked
to deny KPFA's privilege of broadcasting more than "excerpts."
It is of first importance to state
unequivocally that, since the debate, KPFA has obtained prior approval to record their own
tapes of student-sponsored events. Approval has not been denied them at any time. However,
this policy has, in many instances, hampered KPFA. Many student-sponsored events are not
publicized well enough in advance to permit KPFA enough time to acquire permission through
the Public Information Office. For example, KPFA was not able to tape the speech given by
General Walker on October 27, 1964. Since they were informed just a short while in advance
of the speech they were not able to go through the red-tape required for them to be
allowed to tape the speech. Under the former policy, KPFA would have been able to tape
this speech with a few moments notice. This is merely one instance among many in which
KPFA has been unable to cover on-campus events of immediate interest to the University
community. It is of no less importance to realize what kind of shift of emphasis has taken
place in the Administration's policy on tapes. One would have to misunderstand every word
of this report in failing to realize that it is a shift from an unrestrictive policy
regarding the mass media, toward a policy which does not define its criteria for approval,
and is therefore arbitrary. And in becoming arbitrary in this matter, the Administration
leaves itself open to immediate pressures from the community at large and obviates the
task of explaining its actions to anyone. This amounts to nothing less than an utter
absence of principle and an utter surrender to expediency.
The value, if not the necessity of adequate
and unshackled reportage and communication of student thought and action to the general
public is hardly an arguable point. The Administration does not seem to grasp the
seriousness of this idea. If the importance of the actions surrounding the tapes of the
Mandel-Schwarz debate could be termed an "epitome", it could as well be termed
"the visible tenth of the iceberg."
-- Cassius Johnson, Teaching Assistant in
Joseph La Penta,
Teaching Assistant in English
Fanchon Lewis, Alumna
(1) See photograph in Feb. 1, 1962 issue of the Oakland Tribune
showing five microphones on the podium. One microphone could have been the PA system.
(2) See statement by Alex Sherriffs in Daily Californian of
Feb. 1, 1962.
(3) Regulation on the Use of University of California Facilities,
Revised August 16, 1961, IV b, page 3.
(4) San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 27, 1962, page 7; Berkeley
Review, Feb. 1, 1962; Daily Californian, Feb. 1, 1962; Oakland Tribune,
Jan. 27, 1962, page 1.
(5) Mr. Mandel's letter to ASUC Ex Com, Feb. 28, 1962.
Item I. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to document how heavily KPFA's
treatment of student political and social activity has cost it with the power structure.
It should be noted that such an outspoken programming policy has made KPFA and its sister
stations (KPFK, Los Angeles; WBAI, New York) the target of harassment by all manner of
reactionary groups. TOCSIN, "the West's leading Anti-Communist Weekly",
has often run articles about the stations, its policies and its employees. (Vol. 4, No. 4,
Jan. 23, 1963, p. 1; Vol. 4, No. 7, Feb. 13, 1963, p. 1). The Pacifica Foundation has been
investigated (Jan., 1963) by the US Senate Investigating Subcommittee, and has been
harassed by the Federal Communications Commission's requirement that its managers sign
loyalty oaths (November, 1963.)
Item II. Mr. Mandel earns his livlihood partially as a translator. He had done
piece-work translations for a Professor E. V. Laitone. After the HUAC affair in 1960, Mr.
Mandel contacted Professor Laitone for work, and was told that he (Prof. Laitone) had been
informed by the University Security Officer that Mr. Mandel should no longer be given
work. He has, however, done work subsequently for members of the faculty in the capacity
of a translator.