Tags: FCC | NFL | Redskins

FCC Unlikely to Pull Off 'Hail Mary' on Redskins Name Ban

By    |   Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 12:38 PM

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) most probably will not try to stop radio station WWXX-FM from referring to Washington's football team as the "Redskins," even if the FCC's chairman would like to do so.

Despite FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's statement that he finds the name of the team to be "offensive and derogatory," legal experts say it is unlikely that the FCC has the power to fine or suspend the license of the station as requested by a George Washington University professor in a formal complaint filed with the FCC on Sept. 2, Politico reports.

First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere told Politico, "There's no serious legal argument in support of it. The FCC isn't generally the culture police."

John F. Banzhaf filed a complaint with the FCC against the station which is, like the Redskins, owned by Daniel Snyder, asking that the FCC "deny the renewal of this station's license…because it deliberately, repeatedly, and unnecessarily broadcasts the word 'R*dskins' during most of its broadcasting day," thus having an "adverse impact on impressionable young Indians as well as non-Indian children."

However, while the FCC has the ability to levy fines of up to $325,000 per incident or take away broadcast licenses for "indecent" material broadcast before 10 p.m. or after 6 a.m., legal analysts feel that the term "Redskins" does not fall under the definition of "indecent" language.

“The statute addresses indecency and profanity,” Georgetown Law School professor Andrew Jay Schwartzman told Politico. “The FCC has consistently said that indecency and profanity refer to sexual and excretory matters, and nothing more. It would require a redefinition of the term and an extraordinary stretch to find the use of a word that has multiple meanings could possibly be deemed indecent. It’s not going to happen.”

Opposition to taking punitive action based on the complaint has risen within the FCC itself. Ajit Pai, a Republican and FCC commissioner, told CNBC, "The FCC chairman has suggested that the agency will take a look at that petition and consider what to do with it. For my own part, as a supporter of the First Amendment, I don’t think the government should ban the use of the 'Washington Redskins' team name from the airwaves. But we will see what the agency proposes to do in the near future," Politico reported.

Wheeler commented to B&C/Multichannel News, "I don’t use the term personally and I think it is offensive and derogatory. I am a Civil War buff and there were a lot of terms that were appropriate at that time that aren’t appropriate anymore," Politico reported.

"The FCC should consider getting out of the language police business altogether," the Los Angeles Times opined. "Given the vast range of media sources these days, the FCC wagging a finger at dirty words on broadcast TV and radio seems more like an old 'Saturday Night Live' church lady skit than the action of a government regulator."

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) most probably will not try to stop radio station WWXX-FM from referring to Washington's football team as the "Redskins," even if the FCC's chairman would like to do so.
FCC, NFL, Redskins
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2014-38-02
Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 12:38 PM
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