May 01 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Radio personalities have long tried to build a fan following by pushing the envelope to its extremes. But can “shock jocks” go too far, to the point where homophobic, racist and sexist language costs a station its license?

Womble Bond Dickinson telecom lawyer John Garziglia addresses this subject in a new Radio Ink article. The article was prompted by a recent controversy involving St. Louis radio personality “The Grim Reaper of Radio.” According to published news reports, the Grim Reaper has used racist, misogynistic and homophobic slurs on air. In response, a Missouri state senator is calling for the FCC to yank station KQQZ’s license and levy a large fine on the station.

Could this actually happen? Garziglia notes that unlike newspapers, radio stations must apply for a periodically renewed government license. So the First Amendment protections that cover print journalism don’t necessarily give broadcasters the same liberties.

In 1971, the FCC actually did take away the license of a Mississippi broadcaster due to racist content that was found to be in violation of the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine.

But with the Fairness Doctrine no longer in play, could racist, sexist and homophobic language still cost a station its license? Garziglia said it isn’t out of the question at all.

“Underlying all FCC regulation is the Communications Act and its Section 307 requirement that radio stations licenses are granted to serve the ‘public convenience, interest, or necessity,’” Garziglia writes. “While the FCC’s statutory public interest standard has not previously been applied to homophobic, misogynistic, or racist programming, a future FCC chairman and commissioners could do so.”

Click here to read “Homophobic, Misogynistic, And Racist Radio Programming” by John Garziglia at Radio Ink.

John Garziglia represents radio and television broadcasters, offering personalized assistance in all areas of communications and telecommunications law including transactional and contract negotiations for broadcast station mergers and acquisitions, the securing of financing, governmental auctions of new frequencies, license renewals, new stations applications, facility changes, facility upgrades, licensing, and compliance with FCC rules, regulations and policies. 

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