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Banzhaf Vows to Challenge L.A. Station Over 'Redskins'

Legal activist John Banzhaf says he will challenge the license of at least one TV station in L.A. over the use on-air of the name "Redskins."

He said Monday he had given notice to them that a challenge could be coming, choosing them because their licenses are up for renewal Dec. 1, 2014 (the largest market with the nearest renewal date [all California TV licenses are up for renewal on that date) and because it has one of the largest concentrations of American Indians in any major market, he says. The stations are KCBS, KNBC, KABC and KTTV, though he adds he could challenge stations in another California market as well.

Banzhaf, a George Washington University law professor, earlier this month challenged the license of Redskins owner Dan Snyder's WWXX-FM (ESPN 980) Washington over the broadcast of the name. According to Banzhaf, his challenge is based in part on the argument by former FCC officials and others that the term is a racial slur and that "the unnecessary and repeated on-air use of that derogatory racist word is contrary to current federal law and akin to broadcasting obscenity."

He calls the term “a far more serious, as well as deliberate, violation of federal broadcasting law than a momentary glimpse of a woman's nipple at a Superbowl show…”

He says the grounds under which he will challenge an L.A. TV license—the choice of which one, or more, will be challenged "will depend in part on their responses if any to my notice, and on issues of strategy and tactics"—are essentially the same, which is that its use "is contrary to the legal requirement that the stations operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity."

Banzhaf has successfully used legal campaigns, including FCC petitions, to promote causes including getting tobacco companies to take smoking ads off TV and getting more diverse faces on it.

Banzhaf has been trying for years to get the Redskins to change their name or broadcasters not to use it, but recent events  have given him new hope for action.

Those include a U.S. Patent and Trade office ruling that the name was offensive and the associated trademarks should not get federal protection. That happened once before, prompting Banzhaf to take aim at some TV station licenses in 2005, though that did not result in licenses being pulled or the name being dropped on-air.

This time around, momentum seems to be building, with former FCC officials, legislators and the President all suggesting it could be time for a name change.

Below is an edited copy of the letter:

Dear Sirs:

Please be advised that I am considering filing and/or having filed a formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] to deny renewal of your station’s broadcast license pursuant to 47 U.S.C.A. § 309(d).

It would be similar to the widely reported opposition which I recently filed, and which is now pending, regarding station WWXX.

A copy of that petition may be found at: Bedard, Redskins Radio License Challenged, Team Name Called 'Profanity,' 'Hate Crime,' Washington Examiner.

If there is any reason why such a document should not be filed - and especially if the factual allegations and legal arguments relating to the station (but not to the station owner) are not applicable to your station, please be so kind as to advise me in writing at your earlier possible convenience, and in any event by Friday, October 10, 2014.

As you may know, the mere filing of such a document may cause considerable problems for the station, including affecting its credit rating, its ability to be sold or transferred, etc.

For that reason, I wanted to give you ample opportunity to point out any reasons why I should not take such action, or to make any other comments which you may think appropriate at this time.