Term Redskins likely beyond FCC’s grasp


Washington RedskinsThe FCC, by design, has very limited regulatory authority over broadcast speech, and according to a UCLA law professor writing for the Washington Post, banning the use of the word “Redskins” on the air isn’t part of it.

The writer, Eugene Volokh said that regardless of the inherent offensiveness or lack thereof of the term, “I think the FCC is barred by the First Amendment from forbidding it, or from considering its use as a factor in deciding whether to cancel a broadcast license.”

He cited a precedent, dating to 1993, when the FCC was asked to deny a waiver to Fox because of the potential for its chairman, Rupert Murdoch, to engage in “racist and inflammatory journalism.”

Then FCC noted that even if the subject of a petition was a television station over which it had minimal content oversight, “…both the First Amendment and Section 326 of the Act forbid us from censoring subject matter and opinions relating to religious beliefs, race or national background, regardless of how offensive they may be…and from curbing expression, outside narrowly defined classes of speech, such as indecency, that does not involve ‘a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.’”

The FCC also cited, in passing, a ruling that it could not bar the broadcast of “Polack jokes.”

On the basis of this, it is Volohk’s considered opinion that the FCC has no say on the broadcast of the word “Redskins.”


  1. The law here is not difficult to understand. But recent history suggests this law, or ANY law, may not be followed. This FCC is part of an administration that picks and chooses which laws to enforce and end-runs Congress with pens and phones, so anything could happen, whether it’s the law or not. And stopping any subsequent lawlessness in the courts will get very expensive very quickly.

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