No longer on the left of your dial:

                  Bill Mandel
                  Sunday July 26, 1998
                  Robert Selna
                  SPECIAL TO THE SF  EXAMINER
                  Berkeley radio legend still fighting
                  for free speech
                  BERKELEY - At age 81, Bill Mandel
                  still has a passion for free speech.
                  And the longtime Berkeley resident
                  says he is willing to go to jail to
                  prove it, to protest a recent]
                  injunction closing down Free Radio
                  On June 16, a federal judge ordered
                  the permanent injunction against the
                  grass-roots 50-watt station because it
                  didn't have a permit from the Federal
                  Communications Commission.
                  Mandel says judge Claudia Wilken's
                  decision is similar to the efforts of
                  the 1960 McCarthy-inspired House
                  Committee on Un-American Activities,
                  which he says "sought to suppress free
                  speech by financially ruining people
                  and organizations of limited means
                  through the costs of their legal

                  Mandel was brought before the
                  committee at San Francisco's City Hall
                  in 1960 for his radio show, broadcast
                  by KPFA in Berkeley, and his KQED
                  television production about the press
                  and periodicals of the Soviet Union.

                  By the time Mandel went to testify on
                  May 13, 1960, his TV show had been

                  "My producer at KQED said, "Bill, I am
                  not a courageous man. Tomorrow night
                  is your last show,' " Mandel
                  remembers. "When a man tells you he's
                  a coward, you can't argue with him."

                  A coward Mandel is not. Excerpts from
                  his testimony at the Board of
                  Supervisors chambers are immortalized
                  in films and documentaries, and
                  historians say they are widely
                  considered to have helped launch the
                  student movements of the '60s.

                  In a famous line, he told committee
                  Chairman Edwind Willis, a congressman
                  from Louisiana, "If you think I'm
                  going to cooperate with this
                  collection of Judases; of men who sit
                  here in violation of the Constitution;
                  if you think I am going to cooperate
                  with you in any way - you are insane!"

                  KPFA kept him on the air after the
                  committee speech and won the support
                  of UC-Berkeley students organizing the
                  Free Speech Movement in 1964. Mandel
                  was asked to be on the movement's
                  executive committee that same year.

                  Mandel retired in 1982, after writing
                  several books and translating
                  thousands of journals on Soviet
                  society. He then focused more of his
                  time on KPFA, and began to broadcast a
                  weekly show on Free Radio Berkeley in

                  The FCC first requested the injunction
                  against the station and levied a
                  $10,000 fine against founder Stephen
                  Dunifer in 1995, two years after he
                  started broadcasting from an old
                  bathroom in a communal house on
                  Alcatraz Avenue on the North Oakland

                  Dunifer says that the station didn't
                  apply for the license because the
                  commission bans stations under 100
                  watts. Getting a waiver, he says,
                  would have been practically impossible
                  and prohibitively expensive.

                  Interference cited

                  The commission has granted only two
                  such waivers since the ban began in
                  the late '70s. In court records, the
                  FCC said it prohibited such low-watt
                  broadcasts because it believed they
                  interfered with larger radio signals
                  and emergency communications.

                  The station's left-leaning and
                  educational programming included
                  broadcasts by groups such as Food Not
                  Bombs, Earth First, Critical Mass and
                  individuals with obscure interests or
                  record collections.

                  Dunifer has always protested the
                  injunction on the grounds that it
                  violates the First Amendment. He
                  argues that prohibiting low-watt
                  broadcasts allows only those who can
                  afford licensing fees and expensive
                  equipment to have a voice in radio.

                  "If there is room on the spectrum
                  (radio airwaves), why can't the
                  community use that?" Dunifer asks.

                  Acquiring an FM license costs $2,470.
                  Other fees are also required depending
                  on the type of equipment, says FCC
                  spokeswoman Sharon Jenkins.

                  In ordering the injunction, Wilken
                  prohibited anybody who had worked with
                  Dunifer from broadcasting without a

                  Dunifer says besides being shut down,
                  he is equally concerned with the
                  "overly broad" and "chilling effect"
                  of Wilken's decision.

                  Broadness denied

                  The U.S. district attorney's office
                  for the Northern District of
                  California says the ruling against
                  Dunifer is no more broad than usual.

                  "That is common and standard wording
                  for an injunction," said Assistant
                  U.S. Attorney Mark St. Angelo. "If the
                  judge doesn't enjoin others, the
                  injunction wouldn't have much meaning
                  - that's what she is concerned with."

                  Judge Wilken declined to comment on
                  the case.

                  Mandel, who is enjoined from
                  broadcasting, says he plans to
                  continue his show if arrangements can
                  be made for him to go to jail in lieu
                  of a fine of the type levied on
                  Dunifer. He says that he cannot afford
                  a fine because he and his ailing wife
                  live on a fixed income of social
                  security and savings from his work as
                  a translator of Soviet academic

                  St. Angelo says that if Mandel begins
                  broadcasting again, he will be in
                  violation of a court order and,
                  therefore, in contempt of court. While
                  he won't speculate about Mandel's
                  fate, St. Angelo points out that
                  contempt of court can result in a fine
                  or jail time.

                  "This is unusual to say the least,"
                  St. Angelo said. "Jail is a
                  possibility, but I don't think we're
                  talking long-term, as far as I can

                  Mandel is used to such consequences
                  for speaking his mind.

                  For his writings on Russia, Mandel was
                  hauled before two government
                  subcommittees investigating communism
                  in the United States in the early

                  Lifetime of protests

                  Protests have also had a long-standing
                  role in Mandel's life. In 1933, he was
                  expelled from City College of New York
                  at age 16 for protesting ROTC training
                  on campus. He met his wife, Tanya,
                  that same year while protesting a
                  laundry worker's strike in New York

                  Mandel was let go from KPFA in 1995
                  after 38 years at the station. Mandel
                  says he was fired for violating a gag
                  order and criticizing the station.
                  Others say his show on Russia was no
                  longer relevant at KPFA.

                  "When the programming changed, his
                  show was canceled," says Philip
                  Maldari, KPFA's public affairs
                  director since 1982.

                  Still, Maldari says Mandel was one of
                  the more popular hosts in KPFA's
                  history for his informed, outspoken
                  and, at the time, controversial views
                  about the Soviet Union.

                  Radio scholars agree.

                  "Bill thought the U.S. had no shortage
                  of people denouncing the Soviet
                  society as the evil empire, and an
                  immoral entity," says Matthew Lasar,
                  who recently completed a book about
                  Pacifica Radio, which owns KPFA. "He
                  wanted people to understand that the
                  U.S.S.R. was a multicultural society
                  and that the Cold War was not as
                  simple as people were trying to make

                  Mandel was noticed as an expert on
                  Russia in 1940 after writing articles
                  for the little-known American Russian
                  Institute. Mandel landed the job
                  because he could speak and read
                  Russian, which he learned at 14 when
                  his father took the family to Moscow
                  to help "build socialism."

                  Those who have tracked Mandel's
                  activism over the last several decades
                  say he takes his causes seriously.
                  They're not surprised he is sticking
                  his neck out for Free Radio Berkeley.

                  "He's not a fanatic," says Marshall
                  Windmiller, professor emeritus of
                  international relations at S.F. State,
                  who first heard Mandel in a 1947
                  debate on U.S.-Soviet relations while
                  an undergraduate at the University of
                  the Pacific. "His whole life has been
                  crusade on a number of issues, and
                  free speech is definitely one of them.
                  I think he's a guy who says, "I have
                  to keep the faith. I have to to put my
                  body where my mouth is. I'm not going
                  to end my life as a wimp; I never have
                  been one, and I won't now.' "