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Hispanic Group Claims Hate Speech On Cable News

In a petition to the FCC this week, the National Hispanic Media Coalition claims that hate speech is "prevalent" on national cable news networks and wants the government to do something about it.

That was one of the assertions made by the group in a formal request that the commission open a notice of inquiry into "the extent, the effect, and possible remedies" to what it said was a pervasive problem, and not just on conservative talk radio.

NHMC, a nonprofit LA based media advocacy group, cited a 2007 Media Matters study that concluded  "the alleged connection between illegal immigration and crime" was discussed on 94 episodes of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, 66 times on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and 29 times on Glenn Beck's Headline News show.

Dobbs' ongoing criticism of immigration reform and border enforcement, or more specifically the lack of it, has often drawn criticism from immigrants rights groups.

NHMC defined hate speech as speech whose cumulative effect is to create an atmosphere of hate and predjudice that "legitimizes" violence against its targets.

NHMC was looking for a sympathetic ear from an FCC under Democratic hands, citing candidate Barack Obama's fall 2008 speech to the Congessional Hispanic Caucus about immigrants "counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling the airwaves."

It also sent a copy of the petition to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, asking it to update its 1993 report to Congress on the role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.

The group said it was not asking the FCC to reimpose the fairness doctrine, something some congressional Democrats have suggested they might want to do, but it does want the FCC to collect data, seek public comment, explore what they say is the relationship between hate speech and hate crimes and "explore options" for combatting it. An aide to then candidate Barack Obama told B&C at least twice during the campaign that he did not support reintroducing the doctrine.

Saying its critics would raise the "red herring" of the doctrine, NHMC said it "has not...called for any such remedy."

A CNN spokeswoman said the network had no comment at this time. Fox News also had not commented at press time.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.