NHMC et al. respectfully request that the Commission grant NHMC’s Petition for Inquiry on hate speech in media, filed in January of 2009. NHMC’s Petition 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 to counteract its negative impacts. As NHMC has awaited Commission action, hate, extremism and misinformation have been on the rise, and even more so in the past week as the media has focused on Arizona’s passage of one of the harshest pieces of anti-Latino legislation in this country’s history, SB 1070.
As outlined in NHMC’s Petition, the current media landscape is a safe-haven for hate and extremism. Many communities and individuals do not have the information they want and need to intelligently engage in our democracy. 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; 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 and cable television programs masquerading as “news.”
The Internet gives the illusion that news sources have increased, but in fact there are fewer journalists employed now than before. Moreover, on the Internet, speakers can hide in the cloak of anonymity, emboldened to say things that they may not say in the public eye. Even worse, sometimes anonymous Internet speakers hold their information out as news, leaving the public with the difficult job of discerning fact from fiction.
For these reasons, as the Commission deliberates how the public interest will be served in the digital age, it should consider the extent of hate speech in media, and its effects.
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