The definition of indecency has certainly changed, if current battles within the Federal Communications Commission continue as projected. While the FCC is now reportedly seeking public comment on the possibility of allowing “non-sexual” nudity on television, as well as cursing, ex-FCC honchos have reached out to the owner of the Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder, to inform him that the FCC may have to stop networks from broadcasting his team’s games because the team name could be categorized as “indecent.”
In a letter to Snyder from former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, as well as former Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Nicholas Johnson, the former FCC bureaucrats explain:
“It is impermissible under law that the FCC would condone, or that broadcasters would use, obscene pornographic language on live television,” they write. “This medium uses government owned airwaves in exchange for an understanding that it will promote the public interest. Similarly, it is inappropriate for broadcasters to use racial epithets as part of normal, everyday reporting …. XXXskin is the most derogatory name a Native American can be called. It is an unequivocal racial slur. As The Washington Post’s Mike Wise pointed out, ‘America wouldn’t stand for a team called the Blackskins — or the Mandingos, the Brothers, the Yellowskins, insert your ethnic minority here.”
Needless to say, this was not the original intention of the authors of the FCC’s empowering statute. The FCC can regulate indecency on television under 18 USC §1464. That statute was originally written in 1948. The Redskins began playing in 1932. That means that for some 65 years, the FCC has not found the name “Redskins” to be indecent. It has, however, found nudity and cursing to be indecent, mainly because that’s generally what the word “indecent” means. But as with so many other regulatory agency interpretations, definitions of words no longer matter. All that matters is political correctness.
Whether the team name for Washington is offensive or not is up for debate. But regulating the team name via the FCC is government overreach of the highest order, and certainly a violation of both the statutory authority granted to the FCC and the First Amendment.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).