March 08, 2010

Indians should challenge FCC licenses

Legal & Law

Indians Again Attack "Redskins" Trademark But On Wrong Warpath // Using FCC Worked For Blacks, Other MinoritiesAmerican Indian activists have just filed new challenges before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to six pending applications for new "Redskin" trademarks because of their objections to this racially offensive and derogatory term; a followup to a strategy which has resulted in defeat after defeat for some 17 years, including, more recently, at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

But public interest law professor John Banzhaf, whose FCC license challenge led to the first appearance of Blacks in significant roles on TV stations--as well as to antismoking messages on radio and television, the ban on commercials for cigarettes and little cigars, etc.--thinks they are on the wrong warpath, and should instead--or, at least in addition--oppose the renewal of FCC broadcast licenses of selected stations which continually and unnecessarily use the word "Redskins."

"Even a successful challenge to some pending 'Redskin' trademark applications would not prevent the football team or broadcasters from continuing to use this offensive word, and 17 years of repeated failures using this approach surely suggest that it will be an uphill battle likely to take a long time," says Prof. Banzhaf.

On the other hand, filing an opposition to the renewal of a single broadcast license--based on the claim that the station in the District of Columbia offended African American by refusing to employ any Blacks as on-air reporters, or to feature them in other significant on-the-air roles--provided almost immediate relief to Black activists when the challenged station, as well as its major competitors, suddenly changed their policies regarding Blacks both on-the-air and in supporting positions.
Comment:  I think "17 years of repeated failures" refers to how long it took a single case to reach the Supreme Court before getting thrown out on a technicality. I wouldn't call that a total failure. The Indians won in a lower court...few cases ever make it to the Supreme Court...and no one has overturned the Indians' position on the merits of their case.

Indians also could apply this strategy to the most offensive team names and mascots. With the worst offender getting regular air time being the racist Chief Wahoo.

I'd emphasize the "in addition to" portion of this idea. There's absolutely no reason Indians shouldn't pursue court cases as well as FCC license challenges.

P.S. The phrase "on the warpath" is stereotypical, of course. If Banzhaf wrote this press release himself, which seems likely...tsk tsk.

For more on the subject, see Redskins Make Children Cry and Red·skin n.  Dated, Offensive, Taboo.

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