RTM joins Hispanic Media Coalition to urge official review of media hate speech

This week, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed comments (pdf) in the FCC's proceeding on the Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in the Digital Age. Joined by 32 national and regional organizations from throughout the country, the comments ask the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to examine hate speech in media.

The Future of Media proceeding was designed to assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and our democracy.

In its comments, NHMC reinforces the need for the FCC to act on NHMC's petition for inquiry on hate speech in media filed in January of 2009, also with the support of Reclaim the Media. An inquiry allows people across the country to voice their concerns on an issue in a public docket.

NHMC's petition for inquiry urges the Commission to examine the extent and effects of hate speech in media, including the likely link between hate speech and hate crimes, and to explore non-regulatory ways in which to counteract its negative impacts. For over a year now, the FCC has failed to address NHMC's concerns on this very serious and important issue.

In the meantime, countless people have suffered violent, and sometimes deadly, hate crimes. Hate, extremism and misinformation have been on the rise, and even more so in the past week as some around the nation have spread hate through media in response to Arizona's passage of one of the harshest pieces of anti-Latino legislation in this country's history, SB 1070. Indeed, hate crimes against the Latino community have risen over 40% in just the past few years. And we know that hate speech also has a profound effect on the psychological well-being of our children.

"The current media landscape is a safe haven for hate and extremism," said Jessica González, NHMC's Vice President of Policy & Legal
Affairs, "people do not have the information they want and need to meaningfully engage in our democracy, and this shortage of information is exacerbated by the vast media consolidation that has unfolded over the past two decades.

Studies show that media consolidation diminishes ownership opportunities for people of color and leads to less diversity of voices and this yields a media in which people of color are under and misrepresented." As traditional media have become less diverse and less competitive, they have also grown less responsible and less responsive to the communities that they are supposed to serve. In this same atmosphere hate speech thrives, as hate has developed as a profit-model for syndicated radio programs and cable television masquerading as "news."

González added, "In terms of hate speech, the Internet is even worse than traditional media because Internet speakers can hide in the cloak of anonymity, emboldened to say things they may not say in the public eye."

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey