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Attacks Using Broadcast Law Best Way to Kill "Redskins" Name - WashPost
In a page 1 article this morning, the Washington Post declared that the strategy of using federal broadcasting law to pressure team owner Dan Snyder to give up the "Redskins” name is "potentially more significant than any lawsuit or legislation."
By: Professor John Banzhaf, GWU Law School
In reporting that President Barack Obama has joined with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in suggesting that the name should be changed if it is offensive even to a small segment of the population, the Washington Post wrote:
"A Native American tribe in New York has launched a national ad campaign. On Monday, it will hold a public conference near the Washington hotel where National Football League owners are meeting.”
“And, in a move that has been described as POTENTIALLY MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN ANY LAWSUIT OR LEGISLATION — both of which are also in the works — a group led by a former Federal Communications Commission chairman is working to persuade broadcasters to stop saying the name on the airwaves." [emphasis added]
"Former FCC chairman Reed Hundt said polling numbers are not the final word. 'If you can’t look at somebody and use a certain name because it is an insult, then that is the moment of awareness that it is time for the name to be changed,' he said.”
“Since January, he has led an effort to get the FCC to convene a public meeting between broadcasters and Native American leaders on the subject. His hope is that broadcasters will voluntarily agree to stop using it, much the way individual journalists have. 'At the end of the day, if the owner can’t get the media to use the name, then it doesn’t have any brand value,' he said.”
“John Banzhaf, a George Washington University law professor who pressured the FCC in the 1960s to allot air time for anti-tobacco ads, was writing letters to major Washington stations 14 years ago warning them they could lose their broadcasting licenses for airing the team’s name.”
“Ultimately, he said, the commission could take a harder stance on the Redskins issue. In the 1970s, the commission advised stations against playing music that gave a nod to drug use. 'If the FCC can come out and say ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is wrong and a station could lose their license for playing it, I think it’s much more of a sin for a station to repeatedly use the word ‘Redskins,’
Hundt’s FCC strategy comes as a number of prominent sportswriters, most recently Sports Illustrated's Peter King have declared they will not use the word."
The Post could also have reported that Banzhaf’s strategy of challenging broadcast licenses over racial issues forced TV stations to begin featuring blacks on the air in prominent roles.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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