NHMC's Petition for Inquiry on Hate Speech in Media; filed at the Federal Communications Commission in January 2009


January 28, 2009

The National Hispanic Media Coalition (“NHMC”) requests that the Commission invite public comment on hate speech in the media, inquire into the extent and nature of hate speech, examine the effects of hate speech, including the relationship between hate speech in the media and hate crimes, and explore options for counteracting or reducing the negative effects of such speech.

Hate speech against vulnerable groups is pervasive in our media – it is not limited to a few isolated instances or any one media platform. Indeed, many large mainstream media corporations regularly air hate speech, and it is prolific on the Internet. Hate speech takes various forms, from words advocating violence to those creating a climate of hate towards vulnerable groups. Cumulatively, hate speech creates an environment of hate and prejudice that legitimizes violence against its targets.

Because the media has a powerful influence over people’s behavior and perceptions, it is not mere conjecture that hate speech over the media is producing concrete harms. As they have become the victims of more hate speech in media, hate crimes against Latinos have increased in frequency and in intensity. Indeed, hate crimes against Latinos have increased by 40% in just the last four years. And physical violence is not the only harm suffered at the hand of hate speech – studies show that such speech causes severe emotional and psychological distress to its targets. These harms may be particularly acute for Latino children given that children are uniquely susceptible to messages in the media.

In a September 2008 speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama stated that

This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hands…they’re counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, rise above the fear and demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform.

NHMC applauds President Obama’s commitment to equality and justice, and therefore, respectfully requests that the FCC complement his efforts by initiating an inquiry into hate speech in the media.

The NHMC understands that those who would prefer hate speech to remain under the radar will claim that such an inquiry violates the First Amendment. No doubt they will raise the red herring of the restoration of the “fairness doctrine,” trying to divert the attention of the vast majority of Americans who find hate speech reprehensible. NHMC has not, of course, called for any such remedy, but merely the collection of information and data about hate speech in the media. By holding this inquiry, the FCC will shine the harsh light of truth on hate speech that has lurked in the shadows. This can only serve the highest interests of the First Amendment.

Click here to read the full filing.


National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a woman-led 501(c)(3) non-profit civil and human rights organization that was founded to eliminate hate, discrimination, and racism toward the Latino communities.
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