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Petitioner Drops KTTV License Challenge Over 'Redskins'

Native American radio host Larry Smith has withdrawn his petition to deny the renewal of Fox's KTTV Los Angeles, according to a copy of the document obtained by B&C/Multichannel News.

The one-page filing did not provide a clue as to why, but the FCC's dismissal of a similar complaint may have.

Smith was one of three Native Americans to join legal activist John Banzhaf in asking the FCC to deny the renewal over use of the term "Redskins" to refer to the Washington professional football team, which he said was indecent (profane) and might constitute hate speech or fighting words.

Fox has the TV rights to the NFL's NFC games, where the Redskins are in the Eastern division. The station was targeted in part because its license was due up for renewal Dec. 1, the nearest renewal of a TV station in a big market. Los Angeles also has a large Native American population.

Smith had not responded to a request for comment at press time, but last week the FCC dismissed Banzhaf's challenge to Washington radio station WWXX-FM, owned by Redskins owner Dan Snyder, signaling that the KTTV challenge would be an uphill climb.

Because profanity is defined as sexual or excretory in nature, the bureau concluded in the WWXX case, it could not find the word profane. It also said the FCC did not have any rule against hate speech per se, but only speech that "'is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action ["fighting words"] and is likely to incite or produce such action," and then if only a court says so first, which was not the case with 'Redskins.'

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said he personally thinks the name should be changed, but that is different from whether the name constitutes "profanity," "fighting words," or "hate speech," as has been suggested in the petitions.