2013-02-08 17:28:20 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 8, 2013): Almost two dozen American Indian leaders, scholars, and activists gathered yesterday to again condemn the use of the word "Redskins," but pointedly declined to formulate any action plan for continuing a more than twenty-year battle against its continued use by DC's football team, notes a public interest law professor who proposed they use a twice-successful legal strategy to challenge the broadcast licenses of stations which continue to use what they called the most hateful and derogatory racial slur against Indians.
Speaking and at times fulminating yesterday to a packed largely-Indian crowd at the National Museum of the American Indian, speakers noted that one legal challenge – to invalidate the team's "Redskins" trademark – had been going on for more than twenty years without any success.
But the leaders missed a clear opportunity to lay the groundwork at the symposium for a parallel challenge to the broadcast licenses of stations which repeatedly broadcast a word which has been held in many other legal proceedings to be a derogatory and racist slur.
"Preaching to the choir, and calling for still more publicity and public education, is unlikely to be any more successful in the future than it has in the past in attacking this
hateful word," argues Banzhaf, noting that one African American speaker remarked that no radio or TV station would dare say even once the name of a football team if it were called the "Washington Coons" or the “Washington Jigaboos."
Indeed, as Banzhaf noted, the musical group "N*gg*rs With Attitude" is never referred to on the air by its full name, even though it was deliberately selected by the members of the group referred to by that word. In sharp contrast, DC's football team isn't composed of Indians, and the name was certainly not chosen by Indians.
Banzhaf explained that a license challenge he helped bring, similar to the one he proposed for the Indians, had been successful in forcing DC’s TV stations to begin featuring African Americans on the air – as reporters and in other significant roles – and that a earlier legal challenge took the broadcast license from a TV station which aired programming offense to Blacks.
Even if not ultimately successful, a challenge to a broadcast license filed with the FCC would hang over the head of a station for years, impairing its credit rating, affecting its ability to be sold or merge, and perhaps even to attract top executive and on-the-air talent. That’s why these broadcast license challenges can be so devastatingly effective, says Banzhaf, who also used legal action at the FCC to force stations to broadcast antismoking messages, and to eventually ban radio and TV commercials for cigarettes.
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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