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In the latest step in his battle to force the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change its team name, a legal activist has helped three American Indians to file a petition to deny the Fox station KTTV in Los Angeles a license renewal.
John Banzhaf III, who previously filed a petition to deny a license renewal to WWXX-FM, a Washington, D.C. radio station owned by Red Zebra Broadcasting, a company controlled by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Banzhaf had said he plans to challenge other stations and chose a Los Angeles station because it is up for renewal on Dec. 1. He filed the challenge on Nov. 2, one day before its Nov. 3 deadline.
Banzhaf has said his additional challenges include radio and TV stations in Oklahoma and other states with large American Indian populations as those licenses come up for renewal in the coming year.
In Washington, Banzhaf filed in his own name. Since he is not a resident of California, he had to find proxies. The KTTV-TV petition was filed by three Native Americans including radio host Larry Smith, who is heard on KPFK-FM, a public radio station in Los Angeles.
The latest petition is similar to the one in Washington — which compares the team name to the use of profanity — but adds an argument that the moniker amounts to “fighting words” that can create a hostile work environment.
The FCC is currently considering the WWXX petition. Three of five commissioners have said it is worthy of consideration, but chairman Tom Wheeler has also said that does not mean it will result in a loss of the station’s license.
Legal experts who specialize in broadcast licensing have said that there is no precedent for taking away a station’s license over the use of a team name, even if some find it unacceptable.
A spokesperson for Red Zebra Broadcasting issued a statement on Oct. 17 calling the petition’s claims “baseless.”
“The FCC should not be in the business of censoring the content of radio stations,” Red Zebra said in its response. “Any debate about the Washington Redskins’ name and its meaning should be had in the free marketplace of ideas, not in the halls of the FCC or any other governmental agency.”
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