NRB Concerned by Call for Hate Speech Proceeding

A petition to the FCC challenging a broadcaster license alleges “hate speech” and calls for a Commission hearing on the subject.  Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to highlight this accusation and to urge against opening a formal proceeding focused on this charge.

At issue is a challenge to WWXX-FM, a flagship station of the Washington Redskins, over the use of that professional football team’s name on-air.  In his argument, the petitioner, a George Washington University Law School professor, presents a case for the word “Redskins” not only being derogatory and profane, but also “hate speech.” 

In his letter to the FCC Chairman, Dr. Johnson stated, “What constitutes true ‘hate speech’ is convoluted, yet the connotations of such an accusation are extremely grave.  Sadly, this term has been used recklessly by some in our nation and other democracies in an attempt to expunge opposing viewpoints from the marketplace of ideas.”  

Dr. Johnson noted that the petitioner seems to admit such ambiguity around this term by the petition stating, “the general topic of ‘hate speech’ is so broad and complex, potentially covering many different types of words and statements, and many different types of harm as to which the causal connection may be vague if not indeed nonexistent.”  Dr. Johnson also warned that this vague threat has led to government-sanctioned censorship of religious broadcasts in other nations.

In a press release following the delivery of his letter to the FCC, Dr. Johnson stated, “Accusing media professionals discussing the Washington Redskins and the fans cheering on their team by name as being filled with violent hate toward Native Americans is unfounded and irresponsible. Religious broadcasters are concerned that a similar 'hate speech' charge will be leveled against them when they proclaim truth from Scripture on controversial issues."

  • Find Dr. Johnson’s full letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler.
  • Read the petition against WWXX-FM (the hate speech charge is made on pages 12-13).
  • Find additional coverage here

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: October 17, 2014

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