''Where does freedom of speech begin and end? The protection of free speech is for the people. So the guideline should be what serves the 'people' best.''
That's the assessment of Maurice B. Mitchell--communicator, educator, publisher.Throughout a long and distinguished career--as president of the Encyclopedia Britannica, chancellor of the University of Denver, US Civil Rights commissioner, public broadcasting official, and head of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions--Dr. Mitchell has stressed that he is first and foremost a ''communicator.''
He says he firmly believes that an informed public will make right decisions. ''I have great faith in the American people--if they have all the information,'' he says.
Open debate and discussion provide the best way to educate and enlighten people, Dr. Mitchell says. But he adds that he is concerned that governments and the media don't always follow the will of the people. For example, he notes, ''the majority want the Equal Rights Amendment. But you can't get it through the political machinery.''
''The business of this country is really carried on by the media-- not by government,'' Mitchell charges.
''CBS makes the decision of what I hear and what I don't.''
How can this be remedied? Through rules and policies which serve the public - not the media, he insists.
''There are no rights in the Constitution for newspapers to have anything,'' Mitchell claims. ''It's all been extrapolated.
''And broadcasters must provide equal time. It should be remembered that the public--not the broadcasters--own the airwaves,'' he adds.
Specifically, Mitchell would require 50 percent of all broadcast time to be devoted to programming which would the enrich the intellect and broaden cultural values. And he would increase government subsidies to public radio and television.
''In Great Britain and Canada, they (government officials) share the national culture. They encourage creative work,'' he points out. ''Here, if someone tries to interfere, there are cries of limiting freedom of speech.''