Fox got dragged into the debate over the name of the Washington D.C. NFL team this week. A new petition asks the Federal Communications Commission to deny a broadcast station license renewal to Fox-owned KTTV in Los Angeles, over the station’s use of the Redskins name on-air. The license is up for renewal December 1.
The FCC – best known for its efforts to protect Americans from Janet Jackson’s nipples and various gags delivered by a pre-America’s Got Talent Howard Stern – jumped into the team name debate in September when it announced it was mulling whether to fine broadcasters for saying on-air the racial slur that is the team’s name. The commission is charged with fining broadcasters for obscenities and indecencies by responding to viewer/listener complaints. Back then, the commission got a petition from legal activist John Banzhaf III asking that regulators strip a local radio station owned by team owner Dan Snyder of its broadcasting license when it comes up for renewal, because the radio station used the team’s name. Banzhaf insists the word is racist, derogatory, profane and hateful, making its use “akin to broadcasting obscenity.” Back then Banzhaf indicated an LA television station would be brought into the campaign. The new petition, filed this week by three Native Americans, argues KTTV’s use of the name creates a hostile working environment.
“We’ll be looking at that petition; we will be dealing with that issue on the merits and we’ll be responding accordingly,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said of the petition against Snyder’s radio station, adding, “There are a lot of names and descriptions that were used over time that are inappropriate today. And I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those.”