WashPost Columnist Blusters That Obama's FCC Might Ban Word 'Redskins' on TV

Under Obama, the Federal Communications Commission has done pretty much nothing on broadcast obscenity. So it’s utterly baffling why Washington Post metro columnist (and former Metro section editor) Robert McCartney would try to pretend it’s any kind of a threat that the FCC will punish broadcasters for using that alleged obscenity....”Redskins.”

“Professor's FCC filing should worry Snyder” was McCartney’s headline. The professor threatening Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is liberal John Banzhaf III, best known for anti-tobacco crusading many years ago. There's a lot of bluster masquerading as momentum:

Banzhaf has opened a useful new legal front in the swelling campaign to pressure Snyder to change the name. He has filed one legal petition and threatened more to block renewal of federal broadcast licenses for radio and TV stations that routinely use the team's name on the air. That would include almost every broadcast outlet in the country.

Banzhaf's argument: The team name is a racial slur, offensive to many Native Americans, so airing it is against the public interest. He says the term violates Federal Communications Commission standards against indecency, profanity and hate speech.

If the FCC could make a huge fuss with CBS for briefly exposing Janet Jackson's nipple during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Banzhaf says, then it ought to be able to use its weight to push an offensive term off the airwaves.

This completely ignores what actually happened to the Janet Jackson case in the Obama era. CBS paid a fine in the Bush years, and then spent millions of dollars (alongside the other networks) aiming to get any broadcast indecency enforcement overturned. A series of rulings ending in 2012 eviscerated any anti-obscenity regime on broadcast TV.

Banzhaf, in reality, is just trying to add another hypocritical press release to what former Clinton FCC chairman Reed Hundt and other liberals did last year, petitioning the FCC to block “Redskins.” These same people don't mind nudity or words like "mother-----r" on TV.

In 2005, Hundt protested that any punishment for the Super Bowl broadcast nipple slip was awful: “a backwards journey of a million miles begins with a single (albeit silly) step....The FCC has generated the biggest threat to the First Amendment faced by the electronic media since the McCarthy era because it seeks to limit television viewers’ freedom of choice.”

But McCartney huffed and puffed that Banzhaf would blow Snyder's house down by pestering an FM station he owns that broadcasts Redskins games. He cited attorney John Garziglia, who told him "In practice, anything that's filed against a license renewal application tends to add at least six months to the process, and often two or three years, or more," although it doesn't halt broadcasting at all. Is Snyder really afraid of Banzhaf, any more than he's afraid of the Patent Office trying to deny him a trademark?

Here's what Garziglia told Radio Ink magazine, by contrast: "According to broadcast attorney John Garziglia,  Banzhaf may have to wait until 2019 to go after radio stations for using the word 'Redskin' on the air. Garziglia reminds us that most radio renewals have been completed by the FCC and the next round does not come up for another five years." (The one exception is the Virginia station Banzhaf is hassling.) Garziglia also said it is it is “currently improbable that the FCC would deny a station’s license renewal for the use of the word Redskins.”

So much for the "swelling campaign" against the Redskins. 

Washington Post Washington Redskins Robert McCartney
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