The FCC, in an order released Thursday, dismissed a request to deny the license renewal of a Virginia radio station that broadcast the word “Redskins.” John Banzhaf III and others said use of the name for the Washington team during NFL games was objectionable because it’s a “derogatory racial and ethnic slur” against American Indians.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai called on the agency to dismiss petitions that would prevent broadcasters from using the Washington Redskins team name on the air. He said the move would squelch debate and burden legitimate news reporting.
Three Native Americans have filed a petition with the FCC to protest the license renewal of Fox-owned KTTV Los Angeles over the use of the word Redskins. KTTV broadcasts the NFL’s National Football Conference. The Washington Redskins play in the NFC Eastern Division.
Three more petitions — from people involved with a Native American radio program — have been filed at the FCC against a radio station owned by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for the use of the team’s name on air. The paperwork follows the efforts of a George Washington University professor to revoke WWXX-FM’s broadcast license.
Regardless of which side of the controversy you’re on, RTDNA sees this latest issue as a simple matter of free speech—and one in which the government has no role. If the FCC bans this term, what’s next? Will there be other words determined as not fit for current social conventions? And do we want those decisions made by a government bureaucracy? We think not.
A law professor has challenged the use of the name on broadcast television, saying it violates FCC rules against indecent content. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says that the commission “will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we’ll be responding accordingly.”