Markey Introduces Hate Speech Report Bill

The former chair of the House communications subcommittee wants the government to look into so-called hate speech on broadcast, cable and the Internet and offer up ways to "address" that use of telecommunications.

In the wake of the Kansas shootings, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill, The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 (S.2219), that would update a two-decade old report on the role of telecommunications—the Internet, radio and TV—"in encouraging hate crimes based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation."

In 1992, Markey, then a member of the House, used the Telecommunications Authorization Act to direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to "examine the role of telecommunications in encouraging hate crimes."

He wants his new standalone bill, which is supported by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), to update that report. “We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States," Markey said, "which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment."

The bill wants the report to look at both broadcast and cable speech, including public access TV, over which cable operators have little control, as well as commercial mobile services.

NTIA would have a year to come up with the report and send copies to the House and Senate Justice and Commerce (Energy & Commerce in the House) committees.

The alleged shooter in the Kansas City attack was reported to be Frazier Glenn Cross, who as Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., ran as a white supremacist write-in senatorial candidate from Missouri.

Miller/Cross had already been denied a broadcast platform for views thanks to a combination of Missouri broadcasters and the FCC.

Back in 2010, the FCC advised Missouri broadcasters that it “would not be unreasonable” for them to find that he was not a bona fide candidate and did not qualify for mandatory airtime under FCC rules, according to FCC sources at the time.

Stations have to make commercial airtime available to bona fide candidates, but after Missouri broadcasters (and the state Attorney General) sought a declaratory ruling that he was not a candidate and would not qualify for airtime, the FCC provided the corroborating advice informally, which sometimes happens with political ad questions because time is usually of the essence.

John Eggerton

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.